Delhi High Court closes criminal contempt of court case against Anand Ranganathan & others

Published - January 03, 2024 11:21 pm IST - New Delhi

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday closed a contempt case initiated by it against several individuals, including author Anand Ranganathan, over certain alleged remarks made against a then-sitting judge in 2018.

The court said that since the “initiators” of the contemptuous content were discharged after they tendered apologies to the court, the pending proceedings against other parties, including Mr. Ranganathan, were “a sheer wastage” of the court’s time.

The court had initiated suo motu proceedings in October 2018 after certain social media posts were made against Justice S. Muralidhar, who at the time was a sitting judge of the Delhi High Court. The posts alleged a “bias” after a Bench headed by the judge quashed the house arrest and transit remand of activist Gautam Navlakha in the Bhima Koregaon violence case.

The case, initiated after receiving a letter from senior advocate Rajshekhar Rao, was against several alleged contemnors, including Swaminathan Gurumurthy, the publisher of the offending article, and filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri.

The court also earlier directed two social media platforms to block the weblinks of the article in question.

In October 2019, the court closed the proceedings against Mr. Gurumurthy. The author of the offending article, Desh Kapoor, had in August 2019 tendered an apology to the court, leading to his discharge from the case. In April last year, Mr. Agnihotri, too, was discharged from the case after he tendered an unconditional apology.

On Wednesday, the court said: “since the initiators of the contemptuous allegations have been discharged in this proceeding, it is a sheer wastage of time to take action against others”.

Mr. Ranganathan’s counsel had asserted his stand as a “free speech absolutist”, arguing that the proceedings against him were a “textbook case of abuse of contempt” for being an advocate of free speech, given that he had only tweeted (on social media platform ‘X’) in support of the right of a citizen to “make a comment”. The counsel added that Mr. Ranganathan’s tweet did not support the allegations levelled against the judge.

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