Attorney General of India KK Venugopal on Wednesday declined to initiate contempt proceedings against a former judge and two senior advocates for criticising the Supreme Court’s observations on suspended Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nupur Sharma, Live Law reported.
An attorney general’s consent is required under the Contempt of Courts Act before the Supreme Court can hear a criminal contempt of court petition filed by a citizen.
The request was denied by Venugopal in response to a letter by advocate CR Jaya Sukin.
Sukin had sought a contempt case against former Delhi High Court judge SN Dhingra, and senior advocates Aman Lekhi and K Rama Kumar.
In his letter to the attorney general, Sukin said that the three members of the judiciary “insulted the Supreme Court and not only cast aspersions on the integrity of the top court but also attempted to scandalise the nation’s highest judiciary”, NDTV reported.
On July 1, a Supreme Court bench of Justices JB Pardiwala and Surya Kant made an oral observation that Sharma should have apologised to the country for making disparaging remarks about Prophet Mohammad. She had made the comments during a debate on Times Now television channel on May 26.
Her remarks led to a spate of violence and unrest across several parts of the country.
Sharma had approached the Supreme Court to quash multiple first information reports registered against her across the country. However, the court refused to hear the plea and asked her to approach the High Courts instead.
On July 4, a group of 115 former judges, bureaucrats and retired armed forces officials wrote an open letter to Chief Justice NV Ramana. The letter stated that the Supreme Court’s observations about Sharma were not in sync with judicial ethos. Dhingra is one of the signatories of this letter.
On Wednesday, the attorney general observed that Dhingra, Lekhi and Kumar’s criticism of the Supreme Court’s hearing was a “fair comment”, Live Law reported.
“The statements are not vituperative or abusive nor are they likely to interfere with the administration of justice by the Supreme Court of India,” Venugopal said. “It may be noted that the Supreme Court in a large number of judgments has held that fair and reasonable criticism of judicial proceedings would not constitute contempt of court.”
Venugopal said that he is not satisfied with the arguments mentioned in Sukin’s letter.
“I am not satisfied that the criticism made by the three persons named in your letter is with malice or is an attempt to impair the administration of justice, or that it was a deliberate and motivated attempt to bring down the image of the judiciary,” he noted.