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Attorney General refuses consent to initiate criminal contempt against Swara Bhasker

Actor Swara Bhasker speaks at a panel discussion organised by the Mumbai Collective on February 1, 2020. Photo: Twitter/@Mumbai4Freedom  

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal has refused consent to a plea to initiate criminal contempt action against actor Swara Bhasker for “scandalising” the Supreme Court, saying her comment regarding the Ram Janmabhoomi title dispute verdict “appears to be a factual one” and her “perception”.

The prior consent of the Attorney General is required for the Supreme Court to initiate criminal contempt action in a case. The contempt plea was filed by Karnataka resident, Usha Shetty.

Ms. Shetty has now sought the consent of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. She wrote to Mr. Mehta on Sunday, saying she “respectfully differs” with Mr. Venugopal.

The contempt plea refers to a public address made by Ms. Bhasker in a meeting organised by Mumbai Collective following the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Ram Janmabhoomi title dispute case in November last year, in which the court ordered the handing over of the disputed land to the Hindus to build a temple.

The petition quoted Ms. Bhasker as saying “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”.

 

Mr. Venugopal, in a two-page note dated August 21, said, “The statement in the first part appears to be a factual one, and is a perception of the speaker.”

“The comment refers to the judgment 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, or lower or tend to lower the authority of the Supreme Court. In my opinion, this statement does not constitute criminal contempt,” Mr. Venugopal wrote.

The top law officer and constitutional authority then proceeded to the second statement made by Ms. Bhasker which Ms. Shetty found contemptuous, namely that “ ... we are now in a situation where our courts are not sure whether they believe in the Constitution or not...”

‘Vague statement’

Mr. Venugopal said this was a vague statement not related to any particular court. “Something which is so general that no one would take any serious note,” he said.

“I do not think that this is a case where the offence of scandalising the court or lowering the authority of the court would arise. I therefore decline consent to initiate contempt proceedings against Ms. Swara Bhasker,” the Attorney General concluded.

 

Ms. Shetty, represented by advocates Anuj Saxena, Prakash Sharma and Mahek Maheshwari, had said Ms. Bhasker’s statements, in her address on February 1, this year, were “derogatory and scandalous in nature, putting a big question on the judiciary and their integrity to the Constitution”.

The petition said Ms. Bhasker’s statements were not only a cheap publicity stunt to get a brief applause but an attempt to turn the masses to resist and revolt against the Supreme Court.

What she said amounted to scandalising the court to “provoke a resistance against the judiciary as an institution”, the petition said.

In fact, advocate Maheshwari’s complaint on a tweet by civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan about Chief Justice S.A. Bobde on a bike was suo motu taken cognisance of by the top court recently.

The court last week reserved its judgment and gave Mr. Bhushan time till August 24 to tender an “unconditional apology”.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 11:08:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/attorney-general-refuses-consent-to-initiate-criminal-contempt-against-swara-bhasker/article32422891.ece

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