Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, who was found guilty of criminal contempt for two of his tweets, was on Monday let off with a token fine of Re 1 by the Supreme Court.
The bench, comprising Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari, directed the lawyer to deposit the amount by September 15, failing which he will attract a jail term of three months and debarment from law practice for three years.
“The freedom of speech cannot be curtailed but rights of others need to be respected,” the court observed, PTI reported.
On August 14, the bench had held Bhushan guilty over the tweets made on June 27 and June 29.
During the arguments, Bhushan told the court that the “two tweets represented” his “bonafide beliefs” and that he did not want to apologise for the same. He also answered in the negative when asked if he wished to reconsider his statement.
The court, however, gave him time till August 24 “to submit unconditional apology, if he so desires”.
Attorney-General K K Venugopal urged the court not to punish Bhushan, saying he had done a lot of good work in the area of public interest litigations.
Bhushan stuck to his guns and, in a supplementary statement on August 24, said the tweets represent his beliefs and apologising for them “would be insincere”.
The bench met again on August 25 to consider the “effect of the supplementary statement”.
Reserving its judgement that day, the bench expressed its anguish at Bhushan’s criticism of “sitting and retired” judges.
The court said while criticism is welcome, one should not “attribute motives to judges” since they cannot go to the press to defend themselves and “can only speak through judgements”.