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‘Limited options’ before SC on Prashant Bhushan

The crackdown on two tweets has reached such a pass that the Supreme Court is left with limited options to uphold the “majesty of the court” if lawyer Prashant Bhushan refuses to apologize before Monday, sources in the top court told The reporters on Friday.

The bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B.R. Gavai, and Krishna Murari will assemble on August 25 (Tuesday) to consider an order only if Bhushan does not apologize for his tweets on the judiciary.

A revised order uploaded on Friday said: “…Arguments have been heard in the main matter, on sentencing. Order reserved. We have given time to the contemnor to submit unconditional apology if he so desires. Let it be filed by 24.08.2020. In case apology is submitted, the case to be posted for consideration on the same, on 25.08.2020….”

The final order in the matter is expected to be delivered by September 2, the day Justice Arun Mishra, who heads the bench, is scheduled to retire.

The original order, issued late on Thursday night, had mistakenly omitted the name of attorney-general K.K. Venugopal from the list of advocates present during the day’s hearing.

The revised order corrected the mistake. Venugopal had said he was not representing the Union government on this matter.

So far, neither Bhushan nor those who know him well have dropped any hint that he is considering an apology.

On Thursday, after much persuasion by the bench to take a few days to consider the proposal for an apology, Bhushan had agreed to think it over.

Sources within the Supreme Court believe that if Bhushan does not apologise, the bench will have no option but to pronounce a sentence of imprisonment. The maximum punishment is six months in jail.

The sources feel that if the Supreme Court fails to act despite Bhushan sticking to his tweets, the highest court of the land could be viewed as powerless. Further, any leniency might embolden others to criticise the judiciary in the future, the sources said.