Bhushan Asks SC to Defer Contempt Sentencing Till Review is Done
The application notes that the review will be Bhushan’s only appeal, and therefore needs to be treated seriously.
Prashant Bhushan has moved an application in the Supreme Court to defer its hearing listed for Thursday, 20 August, which was meant to decide the punishment for the lawyer-activist after the court found him guilty of criminal contempt.
On 14 August, an apex court bench of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari found that two recent tweets by Bhushan criticising the judiciary amounted to criminal contempt for ‘scandalising the court’. The judges fixed 20 August as the date for Bhushan to present arguments on sentencing.
Bhushan intends to ask for a review of the court’s judgment (which he can do within 30 days of the original verdict), and has hence asked the court to defer his sentencing till such time as the review is decided.
To justify this request, Bhushan has pointed out that when it comes to criminal contempt proceedings at the Supreme Court, the apex court is both the trial and appellate court.
However, normally, a person always has at least one appeal against being found guilty in a criminal case – which means his review against the verdict will have the same importance to his liberty as an appeal would have.
“In criminal contempt proceedings, this Hon’ble Court functions like a trial court and is also the last court. Section 19(1) [of the Contempt of Court Act 1971] gives a statutory right of appeal to a person found guilty of contempt by the High Court. 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.”Application for Deferment of Sentencing by Prashant Bhushan
The application argues that the deferment of sentencing, therefore, “would be in the interests of justice in view of the underlying public policy with respect to safeguarding liberty of a citizen under Article 21 till such time as his first appeal (in this case the review application) is considered.”
In the event the court decides to continue with the sentencing hearing and pronounce a penalty for Bhushan, he has asked that the court then stay any such sentence till such time as his review of the verdict is decided.
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