Congress leader Kapil Sibal on Saturday defended lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who was found guilty of contempt of court on August 14, and said that the “contempt power was being used as a sledgehammer.”

Sibal, also a senior lawyer, tweeted, asking why courts were “helpless” institutions meant to protect the Constitution and the laws were openly in “contempt” of both. Sibal warned that history would judge the courts for having let us down when there are “larger issues at stake”.

On Independence Day too, the Congress leader had spoken about the role the courts have to play. “Courts must never forget that their commitment to the cause of liberty and our constitutional values will be judged not by their words and homilies but by their actions in dealing with causes,” he hadtweeted.

In the Prashant Bhushan case hearing, the Supreme Court had observed that allegations against it may lead to loss of faith in the judiciary and of confidence among other judges. “In order to protect the larger public interest, such attempts of attack on the highest judiciary of the country should be dealt with firmly,” the judges said.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court rejected Bhushan’s request to adjourn the hearing on the quantum of punishment and to transfer it to another bench. The court then gave Bhushan two to three days to reconsider his statements about the court and the chief justice.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari said sentencing will not be implemented till the review petition is decided.

“I am pained that I have been held guilty of committing contempt of the Court whose majesty I have tried to uphold,” Bhushan said in a statement to the court. “I am pained not because I may be punished, but because I have been grossly misunderstood.”

When asked by Justice Mishra if the court should give Bhushan time to reflect on his statement, Attorney General KK Venugopal said it would be “tremendously good” if the court decided to do so. However, Bhushan told the court that it was unlikely there would be any substantial changes in his statement. But, he added that he would consult his lawyers.

Apart from Sibal, various others including journalists Vinod Dua and Arun Shourie, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi and many bureaucrats and judges have spoken out against the verdict in Bhushan’s case.