Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri on Tuesday tendered an unconditional apology to the Delhi High Court for his comments accusing Justice S Muralidhar of being biased after he passed an order in 2018 to quash transit remand and house arrest of activist Gautam Navlakha in connection to the Bhima Koregaon case, reported Bar and Bench.
The apology came on a contempt case initiated by the Delhi High Court in 2018 against Agnihotri and former Reserve Bank of India Director S Gurumurthy, who had also made similar allegations. Justice Muralidhar was a judge of the Delhi High Court in 2018. He is currently the chief justice of the Orissa High Court.
In August 2018, the Pune Police had detained Navlakha from Delhi in the Bhima Koregaon case and obtained a transit remand to take him to Maharashtra to put him under house arrest. In October that year, Justice Muralidhar had set aside the transit remand and ordered that Navlakha be released from house arrest.
After the order, Agnihotri had tweeted alleging Muralidhar of being biased. Meanwhile, Gurumurthy, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue, had tweeted the link to an article which claimed that the judge’s wife was a close friend of Navlakha.
The High Court then initiated contempt proceedings against both of them.
In an affidavit submitted before the High Court on Tuesday, Agnihotri claimed that he had deleted his tweets about Muralidhar. The amicus curiae in the case, however, submitted that the tweets had been taken down by Twitter and not deleted by Agnihotri.
Despite the apology, a bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Talwant Singh directed Agnihotri to appear before the court when the matter is taken up next on March 16, 2023.
“We are asking him [Agnihotri] to remain present because he is the contemnor,” the court said. “Does he have any difficulty if he has to express remorse in person? The remorse cannot always be expressed by way of an affidavit.”
Navlakha is one of the accused persons in the Bhima Koregaon case, which pertains to caste violence in a village near Pune in 2018. The 70-year-old activist was among 16 people arrested for allegedly plotting the violence.
Last month, he was put under house arrest after being released from Taloja Jail in Navi Mumbai, where he had been lodged for more than two years. On November 10, the Supreme Court had allowed Navlakha to be placed under house arrest for a month. This was after the activist filed a plea seeking to be shifted from jail on the grounds of ill health and poor facilities in prison.