Attorney General KK Venugopal on Thursday gave his consent to initiate contempt proceedings against comedian Kunal Kamra for his tweets criticising the Supreme Court of India, Bar and Bench reported.
In his consent letter, the attorney general said that Kamra’s tweets were “highly objectionable” and it “constitutes criminal contempt of court”.
A Mumbai-based advocate had on Wednesday sought Venugopal’s permission to initiate contempt proceedings against the comedian for his tweets criticising the Supreme Court for ordering the release of Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami on interim bail. Rizwan Siddiquee claimed that Kamra’s comments were contemptuous for their allegedly “salacious and unruly” nature.
On Thursday, two other lawyers based in Pune, and a law student also sought Venugopal’s consent to initiate contempt proceedings against Kamra.
A Supreme Court bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee had on Wednesday granted interim bail to Goswami and his other co-accused in the 2018 abetment to suicide case. While doing so, the bench expressed its displeasure at the Bombay High Court order denying Goswami relief, saying that constitutional courts have the duty to intervene when personal liberty is at stake.
“If this court were not to interfere today, we are travelling on a path of destruction of personal liberty undeniably… If state governments target individuals in this manner, let’s send out a message that SC is there,” Justice Chandrachud had observed.
The judges’ observations were widely criticised on social media as users, including Kamra, questioned why the same principle of personal liberty was not applied to other journalists and activists who are imprisoned on allegedly unfounded charges.
The charges levelled by Siddiquee against Kamra relate to four tweets he made, ridiculing the top court, Justice Chandrachud and advocate Harish Salve who appeared for Goswami, according to Bar and Bench.
In a letter to the attorney general, Sidiquee alleged that Kamra had made tweets during the course of the hearing and after the verdict was pronounced, according to Live Law. Therefore, the advocate said, the tweets and publications “scandalise the Supreme Court and prejudices the minds of millions of people”.
Siddiquee also highlighted that Kamra had posted a morphed image of Supreme Court building, giving it an orange tint with a a BJP flag hoisted in its foyer.
“If such unruly and salacious statements are allowed to go unchecked, then users like Kamra who has millions of followers will too follow the same path and make reckless allegations when a judgment is not in their favour,” the letter added. “Greatest strength of the judiciary is the faith of the people in it, a belief that should not be allowed to erode because of a calculated and well-timed propaganda of a few.”
Contempt, according to the Indian Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, may be civil or criminal. Civil contempt is wilfully disobeying an order or an undertaking given to a court. Criminal contempt could flow from an action or publication that scandalises or lowers the authority of any court, obstructs the administration of justice or interferes with the course of judicial proceedings.