Crime & Justice

Indian top court fines eminent lawyer 1 rupee for contempt

New Delhi, Aug 31 (efe-epa).- India’s Supreme Court on Monday sentenced a renowned lawyer and activist to pay a fine of one rupee (equivalent to $0.014) for two tweets criticizing the top court, which drew attention to the limits on freedom of expression in the Asian country.

A three-judge bench revealed the sentence for Prashant Bhushan, who was found guilty of contempt of court on Aug.14, and who faces three months in prison and a three-year ban on practising if he refuses to pay the symbolic fine.

“Showing magnanimity, instead of imposing any severe punishment, we are sentencing the contemnor with a nominal fine of Re.1/ (Rupee one),” read the sentence.

Bhushan, addressing a press conference after the sentence, said that “while I reserve my 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.”

The lawyer underlined that he did not intend to “disrespect the Supreme Court or the judiciary,” but to express his opinion on the state of the judiciary in India.

Moreover, he said that his conviction has served to draw attention to attacks on freedom of expression in the Asian country.

Bhushan also tweeted a photograph in which he is seen smiling and holding a rupee coin donated by his own lawyer.

The Indian Supreme filed a case against Bhushan, a prominent activist and lawyer critical of the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for two tweets posted in June.

In one of the posts, Bhushan criticized the Chief Justice of India (CJI), Sharad Bobde, for riding a motorcycle belonging to a politician of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, without a mask or helmet, while keeping the Supreme Court closed due to the coronavirus crisis and denying the fundamental right of citizens to access justice.

“When historians in future look back at the last six years to see how democracy has been destroyed in India even without a formal Emergency, they will particularly mark the role of the Supreme Court in this destruction, & more particularly the role of the last 4 CJIs,” Bhushan said in another tweet.

These messages annoyed the Supreme Court, and the judges felt that the lawyer undermined the dignity and authority of the institution.

However, the case also led to criticism and letters of condemnation from lawyers, judges and politicians, who considered the court’s reaction an exaggerated attack on freedom of expression.

“The reputation of the supreme court of India cannot be dislodged by a couple of ‘tweets’,” protested the Bar Association of India in a statement around two weeks ago. EFE-EPA


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