The Supreme Court on Friday issued show-cause notices to stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra and cartoonist Rachita Taneja on pleas seeking initiation of contempt of court proceedings against them, reported ANI. The bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah asked them to file their responses within six weeks, adding that they do not need to appear in person before the court.
On Thursday, the court had reserved its order on the matter of deciding whether or not to issue them show-cause notices.
The case against Kamra relates to a series of tweets he put out criticising the Supreme Court for the manner in which it had fast-tracked Republic TV owner Arnab Goswami’s bail plea in an abetment to suicide case, even as thousands of undertrials languishing in jails across the country find it difficult to get a hearing.
Various people immediately sent letters to Attorney General KK Venugopal asking for permission to prosecute Kamra for contempt of court. The attorney general gave his go ahead on November 12, after which petitions were moved before the Supreme Court seeking contempt action.
Venugopal had said that the tweets by Kamra were “not only in bad taste but clearly cross the line between humor and contempt of the court.” Less than 10 days later, the attorney general gave approval for another set of contempt proceedings against the comedian for a tweet directed at Chief Justice of India SA Bobde.
Kamra has maintained that he would not retract his tweets criticising the Supreme Court or apologise. “No lawyers, no apology, no fine, no waste of space,” Kamra had said on Twitter.
On the other hand, on December 1, Venugopal gave his consent to initiate contempt proceedings against Taneja, the creator of webcomic Sanitary Panels. Her case also relates to two tweets she made about the Supreme Court granting bail to Goswami in an abetment to suicide case.
Venugopal said that one of the tweets, a cartoon that Taneja posted from the official handle of Sanitary Panels, had a “clear implication” that the Supreme Court is biased towards the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court had reserved its order after hearing advocate Nishant Katneshwarkar for less than a minute on a batch of petitions filed against the two people. Katneshwarkar appeared for the petitioners. Kamra was unrepresented on Thursday.
Arnab Goswami’s bail
The Supreme Court had granted bail to Goswami in the 2018 abetment to suicide case on November 11. Days later, the Supreme Court had elaborated on its reasons for granting bail to Goswami, noting that criminal law should not become “a tool for selective harassment of citizens”.
Goswami and two other people – Feroz Shaikh and Nitesh Sarda – allegedly failed to pay money they owed to an interior designer named Anvay Naik, managing director of Concorde Designs Private Limited. Naik and his mother were found dead in their home in Kavir village near Mumbai in 2018. A suicide note said that the Goswami, Shaikh and Sarda had not paid dues amounting to Rs 5.4 crore.