Prashant Bhushan moves SC, seeks deferment of sentence for filing review petition against conviction
Failure to provide such an opportunity to Bhushan to seek review of the August 14 verdict would be in violation of his fundamental rights, the plea says
An application has been moved in the Supreme Court to defer the hearing scheduled for tomorrow to pronounce its penalty on Prashant Bhushan, who was found guilty of criminal contempt of Court for two tweets criticising the judiciary, legal news website BarandBench.com has reported.
The Supreme Court on August 14 had convicted Bhushan for contempt of Court and fixed the date of hearing for his sentencing on August 20.
Bhushan has now sought a deferment of this hearing on the grounds that he intends to seek a review of the judgement convicting him for contempt of court. He submits that he will file the review petition within the statutory period of thirty days.
While arguing the 2009 contempt case against Bhushan earlier this week, Senior Advocate Dr. Rajeev Dhavan had also made a submission before the Court intimating of a likelihood that Bhushan may view a review plea against the August 14 verdict.
In light of this impending move to file a review petition, Bhushan has sought a deferment of the sentencing hearing, arguing that with the Supreme Court being the first and final Court in the instant contempt case, it becomes necessary to ensure justice is done.
"In criminal contempt proceedings, this Hon’ble Court functions like a trial court and is also the last court. Section 19(1) 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," the plea says.
To buttress his case, Bhushan points out where the Contempt of Courts Act allows for appeals from High Court judgments, the contempt verdicts can be stayed by the court pending such appeal. Similarly, it is noted that even under the Code of Criminal Procedure, judgments can be stayed by the court pending an appeal against it.
As such, failure to provide such an opportunity to Bhushan to seek review of the August 14 verdict would be in violation of his fundamental rights, the plea says.
Notably, there is no provision for intra-court appeal where the Supreme Court has found a person guilty of contempt in a suo motu matter, as is the case in Prashant Bhushan's case.
On a related note, this issue has been raised by former Supreme Court Judge Kurian Joseph as well, in a statement urging for a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court to take up larger issues involved in the case.
To challenge the correctness of the verdict, Bhushan has to move a review plea. As such, the Bhushan's application emphasises, "It would be in consonance with the right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Otherwise there would be gross injustice since there would be no occasion to examine the correctness of the findings arrived in a suo motu criminal contempt proceeding before putting the convicted contemnor’s liberty at stake."
Therefore, Bhushan has sought for the sentencing hearing in the case to be deferred until his review plea is filed (within the statutory period of 30 days)
Alternatively, if the court proceeds to impose a sentence on Bhushan tomorrow, he has urged that the same to be stayed till the proposed review petition is decided.