The Supreme Court Friday observed that criticism of courts is growing and everybody is now doing it now, while giving three weeks to cartoonist Rachit Taneja to file her reply on the plea seeking contempt action for her alleged scandalous tweets against the judiciary. The top court also adjourned hearing for two weeks on separate pleas seeking contempt action against stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra, after the petitioners said that they have received reply of the artist. A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R S Reddy and M R Shah was informed by advocate Nishant Kanteshwarkar, appearing for some petitioners in Kamra’s case, that the comedian’s reply has been received and the matter be listed on non-miscellaneous day after two weeks.
The bench agreed to the submission and said it will take up the matter after two weeks. During the hearing on a separate plea, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Taneja, said that he will file reply to petition against her.
The bench however said that criticism is growing on and everybody is doing it. Rohatgi said that criticism of court can never be contempt and she is a young girl of 25-years of age. He said that there is a public perception as to why one case of a journalist was taken up for hearing during court’s vacation. The bench said, If you don’t want to file reply, we will proceed. It’s better if you file a reply. Rohatgi submitted that he will file a reply and sought three weeks’ time for it. The bench said it will list the matter after three weeks. On December 18, the top court had issued show-cause notices to Kamra and Taneja for their alleged scandalous tweets against the apex court.
The top court had sought their responses in in six weeks on the notices issued in two separate cases and had exempted them from personal appearances in the cases. The top court had noted that Attorney General K K Venugopal has given his consent to initiate contempt proceedings against both the comic artists in separate cases. Venugopal had granted consent for initiation of criminal contempt proceedings against Kamra, saying the comedian’s tweets were in “bad taste” and it was time that people understand that attacking the apex court brazenly would attract punishment.
The attorney general had also given consent to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against Taneja, stating that the caricatures posted by her on social media were intended to denigrate the Supreme Court and lower its authority in the eyes of the public. The consent of either the attorney general or the solicitor general is necessary under Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act for initiating contempt proceedings against a person. Criminal contempt of the Supreme Court is punishable with a fine of up to Rs 2,000 and imprisonment of up to six months.