India’s Top Court Fines Lawyer $0.01 for Contempt
(Bloomberg) -- India’s Supreme Court fined prominent civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan a token 1 rupee ($0.01) after finding him guilty of contempt for two tweets that criticized the court’s functioning.
A three-judge panel headed by Justice Arun Mishra on Monday ordered Bhushan to pay the fine within 15 days, failing which he would be jailed for three months and barred from practicing law for three years.
“On several occasions, we not only gave opportunity but also directly or indirectly persuaded the contemnor to express regret,” the judges said in an 82-page ruling, adding that Bhushan refused to apologize. “However, by showing magnanimity, instead of imposing any severe punishment, we are sentencing the contemnor with a nominal fine.”
The guilty verdict on Bhushan, who has been an ardent critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was criticized by rights activists and international bodies such as Human Rights Watch. The sentencing follows a stand by Attorney General K.K. Venugopal that all criticism of court is not contempt and the court should not jail Bhushan.
Bhushan argued that his tweets were constructive criticism and reflected his opinion that the Supreme Court had failed to protect civil rights during the strict lockdown. The court had rejected the defense and said, “The tweet has the effect of destabilizing the very foundation of this important pillar of the Indian democracy.”
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