Attorney General for India KK Venugopal has declined consent to initiate contempt proceedings against journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, for his tweets on the apex court's sentencing in the Prashant Bhushan case and other tweets concerning the judiciary.
The AG responded to the request accompanied by a draft contempt petition by a person named Astha Khurana, which states that the tweets by Sardesai were "nothing but a cheap publicity stunt."
Some of the tweets that the plea cited are as follows:
Breaking: Rs 1 token fine imposed by SC on @pbhushan1 in contempt case.. if he doesn’t pay it, then 3 months jail sentence! Clearly, court looking to wriggle out of an embarrassment of its own making.— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) August 31, 2020
Breaking: @pbhushan1 held guilty of contempt by SC, sentence to be pronounced on August 20.. this even as habeas corpus petitions of those detained in Kashmir for more than a year remain pending!— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) August 14, 2020
and then one of the judges tells me last week that the Ayodhya case is not political!! Would the CJI go to Kashmir too before tackling article 370 case? You are the CJI Mr Gogoi, not the DGP!! Not yet at least! https://t.co/ilwAWRCVBD— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) November 8, 2019
The Attorney General stated that he had given careful consideration to the tweets.
"“I find that the statements made by Shri Sardesai are of not so serious a nature as to undermine the majesty of the Supreme Court or lower its stature in the minds of the people.”" - Attorney General for India KK Venugopal
He further added, “The reputation of the Supreme Court as one of the great pillars of our democracy has been built assiduously over the last 70 years. Trifling remarks and mere passing criticism though perhaps distasteful are unlikely to tarnish the image of the institution.”
In the draft petition, Khurana had said that the tweets incite a feeling of "no confidence" in the minds of people about the top court and "scandalises" it.
The complainant also called Sardesai a “habitual contemnor.”
Khurana sought, therefore, to initiate contempt proceedings against Sardesai for "wilful disobedience of the Court orders and judgments."
In accordance with the Supreme Court’s Rules for contempt proceedings, if a contempt matter is being filed with the apex court, it first needs the consent of the Attorney General.
As a result, Khurana’s lawyer Omprakash Parihar submitted an application to Venugopal on 10 September. In it, he wrote:
"“The series of Statements made by Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai on social media platform “ Twitter” has made with deliberate intentions, scandalousand derogatory statements in the context of the supreme court and hence, liable to be proceeded with Contempt of Courts.” (sic)"
Parihar had told The Quint that they were complying with the law which requires that the AG’s consent is needed prior to filing the contempt petition with the court. He also said that they would approach Solicitor General Tushar Mehta in case the AG rejected their request.
The AG was recently approached to initiate contempt proceedings against actress Swara Bhasker, for her comments on the court, but he rejected the request. The complainant in that case then approached Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, but he also rebuffed the attempt as the SG, noting that the SG can only be approached if the AG fails to respond.
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