Lawyer Prashant Bhushan on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court seeking to defer Thursday’s proceedings to announce his punishment in a contempt of court case till a review petition was filed and considered, PTI reported. Bhushan was on August 14 found guilty of contempt of court in a suo motu case related to two tweets posted by him on June 27 and 29.

A person found guilty of contempt by a judicial body can be imprisoned for six months, fined up to Rs 2,000 or both.

In his application, the lawyer said he wanted to file a review petition after seeking legal
counsel and studying the August 14 order in detail. The order can have grave constitutional significance, especially considering the right to free speech, he said. “The applicant would file the same [petition] within the limitation period of 30 days from date of the judgment, as he is entitled to under Order 47 of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013,” the application said.

Bhushan, in his appeal filed through lawyer Kamini Jaiswal, said the Supreme Court functions like a trial court in criminal contempt proceedings, and is also the final court of appeal. “Section 19(1) gives a statutory right of appeal to a person found guilty of contempt by the High Court,” Bar and Bench quoted the application as saying. “The fact that there is no appeal against an order of this Hon’ble Court makes it doubly necessary that it takes the utmost precaution to ensure that justice is not only done but seen to be done.”

Bhushan also pointed out that the court can stay contempt verdicts when such review pleas are pending. Failing to provide a chance for the lawyer to file a review plea would be in violation of his fundamental rights, the application said.

In the August 14 verdict, the court had said the magnanimity of judges cannot be stretched to the extent that it “may amount to weakness in dealing with a malicious, scurrilous, calculated attack” on the judiciary. This was in response to Bhushan’s statement that that the judges needed to be magnanimous and not use the contempt of court law for remarks on individual judges or on fair criticism of the judiciary. The court, however, said allegations against the Supreme Court may lead to a loss of faith in the judiciary and of confidence among other judges.

Following the judgement, more than 3,000 members of civil society including former judges, retired bureaucrats, journalists and lawyers criticised the Supreme Court’s order. The signatories said that expressing concern about the functioning of the judiciary was the fundamental right of every citizen. The signatories included former Supreme Court judges Ruma Pal, B Sudershan Reddy, Madan B Lokur, activist Harsh Mander and historian Romila Thapar.

Over 1,800 members of the bar have also criticised the Supreme Court’s decision, besides Opposition leaders, lawyers, and human rights organisations.