SC reserves verdict on quantum of punishment against Prashant Bhushan.

New Delhi: Attorney General K K Venugopal urged a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra to not punish Prashant Bhushan but “warn” him if necessary and let him go.

The Supreme Court Tuesday reserved its verdict on quantum of punishment against senior Advocate Prashant Bhushan who was convicted of criminal contempt for his two tweets.

Starting the proceedings, Attorney General K K Venugopal reiterated his appeal to the apex court to take a “compassionate view” and forgive Bhushan. However, the court said the lawyer has not apologized yet and has even made disparaging remarks in the affidavit filed in his defense. Venugopal had urged the top court last week as well to spare Bhushan from any punitive action.

On August 14, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra found two tweets by Bhushan amounting to “serious contempt of court” and found him guilty of criminal contempt. Bhushan had refused to apologize for his tweets, saying they were not done in “absence mindedness” and were nothing but a small attempt to discharge what he considered to be his “highest duty at this juncture in the history of our republic”.

Venugopal urged a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra to not punish Bhushan but “warn” him if necessary and let him go. To this, Justice Mishra replied, “But if Bhushan ji is not having any inkling that he has done anything wrong, what effect do you think such an advise will serve?”

He further said the court had given Bhushan time but he refused to apologize.

The bench took the AG through the affidavit filed by Bhushan in his defense, saying that he made disparaging remarks against the top court here as well. “Prashant Bhushan says SC has collapsed, is it not objectionable?” the bench asked the AG.

To this, AG Venugopal said, “I think he (Bhushan) should withdraw it in entirety and express regret.” He also said the court should let him off if he apologizes.

The bench then sought views of senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, counsel for Bhushan, on punishment to be awarded in the contempt case. Dhavan said judgment convicting Bhushan should be recalled, no sentence be imposed on him.

“Please do not make Prashant Bhushan a martyr. After Babri Masjid was demolished, there were crowds to welcome Kalyan Singh. So do not make him a martyr,” he said.

“Not only the Bhushan contempt case be closed, but the controversy should also be put to an end. SC should give statesman like the message,” he added.

To this, Justice Mishra replied, “I am not criticizing Mr. Bhushan…There is a difference between a court officer and a politician…if you are going to press for everything, you are identifying with the former more.”

Meanwhile, a new Supreme Court bench will hear the 2009 contempt case against Bhushan from next month as Justice Arun Mishra retires in the first week of September. The bench headed by Justice Mishra said the matter will be listed before an appropriate bench on September 10 as they are "short of time".