Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta on Wednesday refused permission for initiation of contempt of criminal court proceedings against actor Swara Bhasker, for her remarks criticising the Supreme Court and its verdict in the Ayodhya case, as well as another statement condemning the government, the Hindustan Times reported.
In his letter to the petitioner, Usha Shetty, Mehta said that Attorney General of India KK Venugopal had earlier rejected a similar request by Shetty, and hence her request to him is misconceived. “The attorney general, on August 21, had declined to provide his consent for the reasons stated in the reply of the attorney general. “Considering the fact that the attorney general has already declined to grant his consent, the present request made to me is misconceived.”
The first statement referred to Bhasker’s comments at a panel discussion, organised by non-governmental organisation Mumbai Collective, in February. “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 judgement rewards the same people who brought down the mosque,” Bhasker had said.
In her second statement, Bhasker had said that the Indian government does not believe in the Constitution. “We are ruled by police forces that do not believe in the Constitution,” she added. “It seems we are now in a situation where our courts are not sure whether they believe in the Constitution or not.”
In response to Shetty’s petition, Venugopal had said that Bhasker’s first comment is not an attack on the institution of the Supreme Court. He added: “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.”
As for the second statement, the attorney general told Shetty’s lawyers that it was vague and not related to any particular court, and too general for anyone to take notice of it.
Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act and Rule 3 of Rules to Regulate Proceedings for Contempt of Supreme Court says that the consent of the attorney general or solicitor general is necessary before the court can hear a criminal contempt plea filed by a private individual.
In a landmark verdict on November 9 last year, the Supreme Court had ruled that the disputed land in Ayodhya would be handed over to a government-run trust for the construction of a Ram temple. The court said that the demolition of Babri Masjid was illegal and directed the government to acquire an alternative plot of land to build a mosque. Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of the temple on August 5.