New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday held activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt for his two derogatory tweets against the judiciary saying they cannot be said to be a fair criticism of the functioning of the judiciary made in the public interest.
Holding that Bhushan attempted to scandalise the entire institution of the Supreme Court, the top court said: “If such an attack is not dealt with, with requisite degree of firmness, it may affect the national honour and prestige in the comity of nations”.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari said: “The tweets which are based on the distorted facts, in our considered view, amount to committing criminal contempt.
“In the result, we hold alleged contemnor No.1 – Mr Prashant Bhushan guilty of having committed criminal contempt of this court”. In its 108-page order, the top court however discharged the notice issued to Twitter Inc, California, USA in the contempt case after accepting its explanation that it is only an intermediary and does not have any control on what the users post on the platform.
The bench said the company has also shown its bona fides immediately after the cognizance was taken by this court as it has suspended both the tweets.
“We, therefore, discharge the notice issued to the alleged contemnor No.2. (Twitter Inc),” the bench said.
The top court said it would hear on August 20, the arguments on the quantum of sentence to be awarded to Bhushan in the matter.
A contemnor in this case can be punished with simple imprisonment of up to six months or with a fine of up to Rs 2,000 or with both.
The bench analysed the two tweets of Bhushan posted on the micro-blogging site on June 27 on the functioning of judiciary in past six years, and on July 22 with regard to Chief Justice of India S A Bobde.
“In our considered view, it cannot be said that the tweets can be said to be a fair criticism of the functioning of the judiciary, made bona fide in the public interest,” it said.