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Attorney General Disallows Contempt Proceedings Against Kapil Sibal

Sibal made critical statements concerning some recent verdicts of the apex court as a speaker in an event .

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India
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Attorney General KK Venugopal has declined consent for initiating contempt proceedings against Rajya Sabha MP and senior advocate Kapil Sibal for his last month's statements about the Supreme Court.

Sibal on 6 August made critical statements concerning some recent verdicts of the apex court as a speaker in an event organized in New Delhu.

Venugopal has said that having gone through the entirety of his speech, he finds that Sibal's criticism of the court and the judgements was so that the court may take note of the statements in the larger interest of the justice delivery system.

"It does not appear to me that the statements were intended to scandalize the court or affect the confidence of the public in the institution. I accordingly decline consent," the top law officer said in his letter to advocate Vineet Jindal.
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Jindal had sought the Attorney General's consent to initiate contempt proceedings against Sibal for allegedly making statements "scandalizing" the verdicts delivered by the apex court.

As per section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, the nod of the Attorney General or the Solicitor General is a condition precedent to set the criminal contempt proceedings in motion before the apex court.

In his letter, Venugopal said he has examined the statements made in their entirety, "the Hindi portions have been translated for me and which run into about 30 minutes".

"The statements which pertain to loss of faith in the Supreme Court are not contemptuous on the face of it, as the import of those statements is the fact that the orders of the Supreme Court are not implemented on the ground," he said.

Venugopal said no part of these statements casts any blame or aspersion upon the court.

The Attorney General said the statements "relating to the critiques of certain judgements delivered by the Supreme Court would fall squarely within the purview of 'fair comment' which is permissible under section 5 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, itself".

He said regarding the apex court's judgement upholding the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, the matter is currently sub-judice as a review petition has been entertained by the top court which is pending.

On the issue of allocation of cases raised by Sibal, the attorney general said "So far as the statement related to the allocation of cases is concerned, I find that the four judges of the Supreme Court in a press conference dated January 12, 2018, expressed these same views in relation to the allocation of cases by the then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra."

The Attorney General said that under section 16 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, a judge can be held in contempt of his own court.

"However, no contempt action had ever been initiated by the Supreme Court against the makers of those statements, and therefore in my opinion it would not be appropriate that action be initiated against Sibal," he said.

"Having gone through the entirety of Sibal's speech, I find that his criticism of the court and the judgements was so that the court may take note of the statements in the larger interest of the justice delivery system," he said.

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