‘Not an attack on SC’: AG Venugopal denies consent to plea seeking criminal contempt against Swara Bhaskar

Attorney General KK Venugopal on Sunday rejected a petition seeking court’s nod to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against actor Swara Bhaskar for her alleged “derogatory” remarks on the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi case, reported Live Law.

While rejecting the petition, Venugopal said that the statement referred to in the application appears to be a “factual one”, referring to a judgment of the Supreme Court and is not an “attack on the institution.”

In his letter declining consent, the Attorney General said that the tweet appears to be a ” factual one” referring to a judgment of the Supreme Court and is not an “attack on the institution.”#SupremeCourt #contempt pic.twitter.com/aqGjSdJXYs

The petitioners reportedly referred to two statements made by Bhaskar at the panel discussion Artists against Communalism in Mumbai in February this year.

“We are living in a country where the Supreme Court states that the demolition of the Babri Masjid was unlawful and in the same judgment rewards people who brought down the mosque,” the actor had reportedly said.

Venugopal mentioned both these statements in his letter and observed that they do not constitute criminal contempt.

“The statement in the first part appears to be a factual one and is a perception of the speaker. The comment refers to a judgement of the Supreme Court and is not an attack on the institution. This does not offer any comment on the Supreme Court itself or say anything that would scandalise or tend to scandalise, lower or tend to lower the authority of the Supreme Court. In my opinion, this statement does not constitute criminal contempt,” Venugopal said in his letter to the petitioners.

“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 the courts are not sure whether they believe in the Constitution or not, what do we do then? And it seems to me that as everyone has said that path is clear to us and has been shown to us by you all, whoever of you all have been part of the protests by the students, by the women and by the citizen protestors — and it is to resist,” is the second statement referred to by Venugopal.

According to Live Law, Venugopal stated that the second statement is “a vague statement not related to any particular court” and is so “general” that no one would take any serious note of it. “I do not think this is a case where the offence of scandalising of Court or of lowering the authority of the Court would arise,” he said.

A five-judge Constitution Bench of the apex court on 9 November last year had delivered a unanimous verdict paving the way for the construction of a Ram Temple at the disputed site at Ayodhya and had directed the Centre to allot a five-acre plot to the Sunni Waqf Board for building a mosque.

The plea filed by advocate Mahek Maheshwari along with lawyers Anuj Saxena and Prakash Sharma had alleged that Bhaskar had made “derogatory and scandalous” statements against the courts in the country and mentioned the Ayodhya case judgement at a panel discussion organised by the Mumbai Collective on 1 February, 2020and sought to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against the actor.

The petitioner Usha Shetty through the advocates had claimed that the comments intended to incite a lack of confidence in the judiciary among the people and question the integrity of the Court.

Under section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act 1971, the consent of either the AG or the Solicitor General is required for initiating contempt proceedings against a person.

The petitioners have now moved the office of Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta for permission, reported Bar&Bench.

The Supreme Court had on 14 August found lawyer Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt in the suo motu case for his tweets against the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and the apex court. The top court on Thursday gave  Bhushan two days to reconsider his statements and apologise. The lawyer, however, refused the offer stating that his statements “are well considered and well thought of.”

With inputs from PTI

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