New Delhi, August 24: Advocate Prashant Bhushan told the Supreme Court on Monday that tendering an insincere apology for his tweets, which were an expression of his bona fide beliefs, would amount to “contempt of my conscience and of an institution that I hold in highest esteem”.
“My tweets represented this bona fide belief that I continue to hold. Public expression of these beliefs was, I believe, in line with my higher obligations as a citizen and a loyal officer of this court. Therefore, an apology for expression of these beliefs, conditional or unconditional, would be insincere,” Bhushan said in a statement addressed to the court.
A three-judge Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra had given Bhushan time till August 24 to tender an unconditional apology.
In his earlier statement read out to the court during the contempt hearing on August 20, Bhushan had refused to apologise for his tweet about Chief Justice S.A. Bobde astride a heavy bike and another on the role of the Supreme Court in the past six years. He had quoted Mahatma Gandhi to say he neither asked for mercy nor magnanimity and would cheerfully accept whatever punishment the court deemed him fit.
In this supplementary statement, Bhushan said “an apology cannot be a mere incantation and any apology has to, as the court has itself put it, be sincerely made”.
“If I retract a statement before this court that I otherwise believe to be true or offer an insincere apology, that in my eyes would amount to the contempt of my conscience and of an institution that I hold in highest esteem,” he stated.
Bhushan said he had never stood on ceremony for offering his apology for a mistake or wrongdoing on his part. “It has been a privilege for me to have served this institution and bring several important public interest causes before it. I live with the realisation that I have received from this institution much more than I have had the opportunity to give it. I cannot but have the highest regard for the institution of the Supreme Court,” he said.
He said he believed the Supreme Court to be the last bastion of hope for the protection of fundamental rights, the watchdog institutions and indeed for constitutional democracy itself. He said the hopes of the people vested on the Supreme Court in “these troubling times” to ensure rule of law and not the untrammelled rule of the Executive.
“This casts a duty, especially for an officer of this court like myself, to speak up, when I believe there is a deviation from its sterling record. Therefore, I expressed myself in good faith, not to malign the Supreme Court or any particular Chief Justice, but to offer constructive criticism so that the court can arrest any drift away from its long-standing role as a guardian of the Constitution and custodian of peoples’ rights,” Bhushan explained in the statement.