Attorney General KK Venugopal on Thursday declined an application to initiate contempt proceedings against Consulting Editor of the India Today Group Rajdeep Sardesai for his tweets on the Supreme Court in the Prashant Bhushan contempt case, Live Law reported.
“I find that the statements made by Shri [Rajdeep] Sardesai are not no serious a nature as to undermine the majesty of the Supreme Court or lower its stature in the minds of the public,” Venugopal said in a letter.
The attorney general received a request to initiate contempt proceedings against the journalist for “for willful and deliberate disobedience of the orders/judgment” of the Supreme Court. The remarks pertain to the Supreme Court’s verdict that found senior advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court last month.
The consent of the attorney general or the solicitor general is necessary when a contempt case is filed and before the Supreme Court can act on it.
The petitioner further contended that Sardesai was a well-known personality “and various people take his statement as true and correct, therefore his statement on the top judicial body of his country indicates a threat to the society”. It also argued that the journalist’s statements will lead to no trust on the judiciary and that people will look at the court “with questionable eyes and all the respect of this prestigious institution will vanish”.
On August 31, Sardesai had tweeted that the fine of Re 1 imposed on Bhushan was Supreme Court’s way to “wriggle out of an embarrassment of its own making.” The petitioner had used this remark, alleging that the television anchor made the “derogatory and scandalous” statements intentionally.
“Breaking: Prashant Bhushan held guilty of contempt by SC [Supreme Court], sentence to be pronounced on August 20... this even as habeas corpus petitions of those detained in Kashmir for more than a year remain pending!” Sardesai had written in another tweet.
In his letter, Venugopal wrote that “trifling remarks” and passing criticism “though perhaps distasteful” were unlikely to hurt the image of the Supreme Court, which had built its reputation as one of the pillars of our democracy “assiduously over the last 70 years.”
Meanwhile, the television anchor welcomed the attorney general’s decision of not initiating a contempt case. “Satyamev Jayate! Thank you to guardians of the law and constitution!” he tweeted.
On Monday, Bhushan deposited the Re 1 fine at the Supreme Court Registry after the top court found him guilty of contempt of court over two tweets. However, Bhushan said the payment of the fine did not indicate that he had accepted the Supreme Court’s judgement and filed a review petition against his conviction.
The case against Bhushan was based on two tweets from June. In one tweet, he made a remark about an undeclared emergency and the role of the Supreme Court and the last four chief justices of India. The second tweet was about Chief Justice SA Bobde trying a Harley Davidson superbike in his hometown Nagpur during the coronavirus outbreak.
The advocate is also facing another contempt case. It relates to an interview Bhushan gave to the Tehelka magazine in 2009, in which he made allegations of corruption in the Supreme Court and said that half of the previous 16 chief justices were corrupt. On Thursday, the top court sought assistance from Venugopal in case and deferred the hearing to October 12.