KK Venugopal, Attorney General of India, has granted his consent to initiate contempt of court proceedings against Kunal Kamra based on pleas filed by several lawyers and law students. They had maintained that the stand-up comedian’s tweets following the Supreme Court granting Arnab Goswami bail could be described as contempt of court. In his official letter, Venugopal notes that freedom of speech is subject to the law of contempt.
“I find that today people believe 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,” he writes.
Advocate Rizwan Siddiquee had written to Attorney General KK Venugopal seeking his permission to begin contempt of court proceedings against stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra for his tweets against the Supreme Court.
Kamra’s tweets came after the apex court passed an order granting interim bail to Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami on Wednesday. The order was passed by a bench comprising of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Indira Banerjee.
Siddiquee’s request comes on the basis of the five tweets put out by Kamra on his official Twitter account shortly after 1:40 pm. The five tweets are as follows:
In the morphed photo of the Supreme Court building, posted by Kamra on Twitter, the building is painted in orange with a Bharatiya Janata Party’s flag hoisted instead of the Indian Flag.
According to www.indiankanoon.org, contempt of court means either civil contempt or criminal contempt.
In civil contempt, the offence is committed when a person wilfully disobeys any judgment or order given by a court.
In criminal contempt, the offence is committed when a person via words, speech or written does anything which could scandalize, prejudice, or interfere with judicial proceedings or lower or tend to lower the authority of any court.
Advocate Siddiquee’s letter states that Kamra’s tweets, “manifest attempts to lower the authority of the Supreme Court of India.”
If a contempt offence is committed, the contempt proceedings in courts of the country can be carried out only after a relevant law officer gives permission. The State’s Advocate General authorization is needed before contempt proceedings can be initiated in the High Court of any state. When it comes to the Supreme Court, the Attorney General or Solicitor General’s authorization is required to begin contempt of court proceedings.
However, in the past, there have been in cases where the Attorney General of India has refused permission to begin contempt of court proceedings.
The Attorney General had earlier been asked to initiate contempt of court proceedings against actress and producer Swara Bhasker and Andhra Pradesh CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy. Following the Babri Masjid verdict, Swara had said, “We are living in a country where the Supreme Court of our country states that the demolition of Babri masjid was unlawful and in the same judgment rewards the same people who brought down the mosque.” Moreover, she added, “We are ruled by a government that doesn’t believe in our Constitution. We are ruled by police forces that do not believe in the constitution. It seems we are now in a situation where our courts are not sure whether they believe in the constitution or not. What then do we do and it seems to me that as everyone has said that path is clear to its and it has been shown to us by you all whoever of you all have been part of the protest by the students by the women and by the citizen protestors it is to resist.”
In a letter, addressing Swara’s comments and the plea to start contempt proceedings, Venugopal said, “The statement in the first part appears to me factual and is a perception of a speaker. The comments refer to the Judgment of the Supreme Court and are not an attack on the institution. This does not offer any comment on the Supreme Court itself or say anything that would scandalise or lower the authority of the Supreme Court.”
Speaking about the second part of the actress’ statements, he added, “The second statement is vague, not related to any particular Court, and something so general that no one would take any serious note of it. I do not think that this is a case where the offence of scandalising of Court or lowering the authority of the Court would arise.”
Earlier, the Andhra CM alleged that the next in line to be Chief Justice of India — Justice NV Ramana — of influencing Andhra Pradesh judiciary in politically sensitive matters. Jagan had written a letter to current CJI SA Bobde addressing the same. The AG noted that “it would not be appropriate” of him to deal with the matter since the “Chief Justice of India is seized of the matter”.
In October, Venugopal once again refused to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against MP and Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh for his tweets questioning whether the Supreme Court would declare the alleged powers given to the Special Security Force by the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government where they can conduct raids in anyone’s house and arrest people without a warrant as unconstitutional.