Prashant Bhushan says he will pay Re 1 penalty for contempt of court
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Prashant Bhushan says he will pay Re 1 penalty for contempt of court

‘I’m not itching to go to jail but if I have to go I will. I had said that whatever sentence the Supreme Court gives me, I will accept.’

By NL Team

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The Supreme Court today fined Prashant Bhusan Re 1 for contempt of court and warned that if the lawyer failed to pay by September 15, “he shall undergo a simple imprisonment for a period of three months and further be debarred from practising in this court for a period of three years”.

A seemingly unfazed Bushan responded at a press conference held at the Press Club of India in the afternoon. It was oragnised by the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform and the Swaraj Abhiyan. Bhushan was flanked by political ally Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj Abhiyan and RTI activist Anjali Bharadwaj.

Bhushan, who in his first statement to the court had said he would “cheerfully submit to any penalty”, today told the media, “While I reserve the right to seek a review of the conviction and sentencing, by way of an appropriate legal remedy, I propose to submit myself to this order and will respectfully pay the fine, just as I would have submitted to any other lawful punishment.”

He went on to elaborate that this was not a Prashant Bhushan versus Supreme Court case but rather a case for strengthening democracy and an independent judiciary.

“This case has become a watershed moment for freedom of speech and seems to have encouraged many people to stand up and speak out against the injustices in our society,” he added.

Yadav explained how this was a case fought not for Bhushan but for all those who did not enjoy the same privilege of attention and thus spend time in jail for speaking their mind. He appealed to all citizens to participate in two nationwide campaigns. One, a campaign to create a nationwide fund for soldiers of truth. “Rupee One, Every One is the campaign we would like to launch,” he said. Two, he urged that from September 2 to October 2, everybody make an effort to “celebrate the spirit of freedom of conscience in this country”.

Asked why he accepted the sentence that held him guilty and not choose to go to jail instead, Bhushan said, “I’m not itching to go to jail but if I have to go I will. I had said that whatever sentence the Supreme Court gives me, I will accept and if they feel I must go to jail, I will. I am paying fine but under protest.”

Another reporter asked if Bhushan would now stop taking “panga”, which playfully translates to stirring up trouble. Bhushan burst out laughing. “Mein koi panga na lena chahta hoon na leta hoon,” he replied. I am not interested in stirring trouble nor do I do that. “If I feel an institution is not functioning properly, I will speak out. It is in this way that I spoke about the Supreme Court as well.”

In a separate case involving an interview Bhushan gave to Tehelka magazine in 2009, the court referred the matter to an “appropriate bench” that will hear it on September 10.

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