New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday issued show cause notice to comedian Kunal Kamra on petitions seeking to initiate contempt of court proceedings against him.
The court also issued a show cause notice to cartoonist Richa Taneja in a contempt petition filed against her by a law student for tweets and cartoons posted by her Twitter handle @sanitarypanels.
A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and M.R. Shah, however, said both need not appear in person and can file their replies within six weeks.
On 12 November, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal had given consent to several people, including lawyers, to initiate contempt of court proceedings against Kamra for his tweets criticising the Supreme Court and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud.
The AG granted his consent to initiate contempt proceedings against Taneja on 1 December, on the basis of a complaint filed by a law student, Aditya Kashyap.
Kamra’s tweets and AG’s remarks
On 12 November, Kamra had posted a series of tweets criticising the Supreme Court after it granted interim bail to Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami in a 2018 suicide abetment case. He had been critical of the apex court fast-tracking Goswami’s bail plea.
The AG’s office had then received several complaints against Kamra for his tweets, following which the AG granted his consent.
The AG’s consent is necessary for a private individual to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against anybody in the Supreme Court, according to the Contempt of Courts Act 1971.
In a letter to the lawyers seeking contempt proceedings, the AG had said, “I find that today people believe that they can boldly and brazenly condemn the Supreme Court of India and its judges by exercising what they believe is their freedom of speech. But under the Constitution, the freedom of speech is subject to the law of contempt and I believe that it is time that people understand that attacking the Supreme Court of India unjustifiedly and brazenly will attract punishment under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1972.”
The AG’s letter had also specifically pointed out to certain statements from Kamra’s tweets — “honour has left the building (Supreme Court) long back” and “Supreme Court of the country is the most Supreme joke of the country”.
AG Venugopal noted that Kamra had also posted a picture of the Supreme Court dressed in saffron colour with the flag of the ruling party, the BJP.
Taking strong exception to this tweet, he had written, “This is a gross insinuation against the entirety of the Supreme Court of India that the Supreme Court of India is not an independent and impartial institution and so too its judges, but on the other hand is a court of the ruling party, the BJP, existing only for the BJP’s benefit.”
A day after the AG’s consent, Kamra had said he would neither retract nor apologise for the remarks.
“All that I tweeted was from my view of the Supreme Court of India giving a partial decision in favour of a Prime Time Loudspeaker,” Kamra wrote in an open letter posted on Twitter.
Also read: Parliamentary panel questions Twitter over Kunal Kamra’s ‘obscene’ posts criticising SC, CJI
The AG had taken cognisance of three tweets posted by Taneja’s Twitter handle @sanitarypanels.
The first tweet showed a cartoon depicting Arnab Goswami with the Supreme Court of India and the BJP by his side and with him mouthing the words “Tu jaanta nahin mera baap kaun hai“.
With regard to this tweet, the AG said, “The clear implication would be that the Supreme Court of India is biased towards the ruling political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party and would tailor its judgments for the benefit of the ruling party.”
He referred to two of her other tweets and granted consent for initiating criminal contempt proceedings against Taneja finding the posts “highly objectionable”.
Also read: The test for scandalising the courts has to be redefined for the age of social media
The court should show the courage to let Kamra attend the court proceedings and the same be reported in the media similar to any normal case. It may be too much to expect though.
I really hope that there will be exemplary punishment in both these cases, and not just warnings. Those people that have lost power after 70 years, are really desperate now. Through their cronies they are attacking the institutions of India like Supreme Court, Election Commission, Indian Army, Indiam Air force. This clown Kamra has cast aspersions on the integrity of the judiciary. Why? Because a decision to grant bail was taken by the learned judges? Was this clown aware of the court proceedings & facts before the judges? This is a very damaging accusation in my view & AG is right. The punishment must fit the slur he has made. I also recall some neta from congress had called No less than Gen Bipin Rawat a ‘street thug’. At that time Gen Rawat was heading the Indian Army! We are all entitled to our views. We can criticise our opponents, but this has crossed all limits. A message must be sent now to all. Even I believe that Arnab Goswami needs to temper his language while addressing those he considers opponents. One can put across one’s point of view without shouting & with facts.
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