'Commited mistake' with my tweets: Bhushan admits in SC

'Commited mistake' with my tweets: Bhushan admits in SC

He refuses to tender an apology for seeking the recusal of Justice Arun Mishra

Prashant Bhushan. (PTI File Photo)

Advocate Prashant Bhushan on Thursday admitted before the Supreme Court he had made a “genuine mistake” in his tweets accusing the Centre of lying before court on appointment of IPS officer L Nageshwara Rao as interim CBI director.

But at the same time, he declined to tender an “unconditional apology” for seeking recusal of Justice Arun Mishra from hearing a contempt case against him.

A bench of Justices Mishra and Navin Sinha, for their part, refused to close the contempt proceedings against him, even though Attorney General K K Venugopal said with Bhushan's statement, he was not keen to press his application for action against the lawyer.

"It is for us, not you, to decide," Justice Mishra said.

Sub judice matter

The court said it would decide on April 3 the larger issue if a lawyer should speak out in public or to the media on a sub judice matter. “The issue has been troubling all of us. We see this is happening in so many cases,” the bench said.

Bhushan said he is ready to admit that he has made a genuine mistake in his tweets on February 1 with regard to appointment of CBI interim director Rao. His counsel, senior advocate Dushyant Dave, said he was ready to tender unconditional apology for seeking recusal of Justice Mishra and the matter should be closed.

On this, the bench made a specific query with Bhushan, who said he was not ready to tender apology for seeking recusal. The A-G said Bhushan's plea for recusal was not bona fide. “However, I don't want any punishment against him if he is ready to admit his mistake for his tweets,” he said.

As the court put the matter for consideration, Dushyant Dave submitted he would argue on the applications, including the one for recusal. He said the recusal of a judge can be sought if there is apprehension of bias in the mind of litigant.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who argued for contempt action against Bhushan on behalf of Union government, submitted that he would seek instruction whether to press the plea after withdrawal of the application by the A-G.

“Kindly consider what kind of messages they are sending by repeatedly demanding recusal in any matter of significance,” Mehta said.

In the heated exchanges during the hearing, Dave said the court wanted to take action 'in terrorem'. He said the Union government's application can't be heard as it did not have the requisite permission from the A-G for filing a contempt plea.

“We won't pass any order now, we will hear the matter and take everything into consideration,” the bench said.

Separate plea

A group of eminent citizens, including Aruna Roy, Wajahad Habibullah, Nikhil Dey, Arundhati Roy, and senior journalists Arun Shourie, Mrinal Pande, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Manoj Mitta and N Ram, have filed a separate plea to intervene in the contempt notice against Bhushan on February 6.

Bhushan had then accused Venugopal of furnishing a "fabricated" document on minutes of the high-powered selection panel with regard to appointment of Rao as interim CBI director.

After contempt notice, Bhushan has filed an application for "recall" of it, claiming the applications were listed before the bench led by Justice Mishra, bypassing the authority of the Chief Justice of India as the master of roster.