After Attorney General of India KK Venugopal declined a request to initiate contempt proceedings against actor Swara Bhasker for her alleged derogatory statement on courts at an event in February this year, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta mirrored the action.
Declining consent, SG Mehta in a letter said that since AG Venugopal has already denied consent, and such a request "was misconceived."
A petition was filed before Venugopal, asking for the initiation of criminal contempt proceedings against Bhasker.
The petition alleged that Bhasker ‘scandalised the court’ – the same ground of contempt on which Prashant Bhushan was convicted by the Supreme Court on 14 August – when she allegedly said that “courts are not sure if they believe in the Constitution” in remarks made at a Mumbai conference in February 2020.
SWARA’S ‘OBJECTIONABLE’ STATEMENT
According to the petition, the objectionable part of Bhasker’s statement was as follows:
“We are now in a situation where our courts are not sure whether they believe in the Constitution or not... We are living in a country where the Supreme Court of our country states in a judgment that the demolition of Babri masjid was unlawful and in the same judgment rewards the same people who brought down the mosque...”
The petition by Usha Shetty claimed that this statement is derogatory and scandalous in nature and is intended to scandalise the court, “a cheap stunt of publicity to gain a brief applause but a deliberate attempt to turn the masses to resist and revolt against the apex court of India”.
ATTORNEY GENERAL’S RESPONSE TO PLEA
In response to the plea, Venugopal observed that Bhasker’s statements were her own perception and not an attack on the institution of judiciary.
“The statement in the first part appears to be a factual one, and is a perception of the speaker. The comment refers to the judgment of the Supreme Court, and is not an attack on the institution. This does not offer any comment on the Supreme Court itself or tend to scandalise, or lower or tend to lower the authority of the Supreme Court. In my opinion, this statement does not constitute criminal contempt,” Venugopal said.
“The second statement that “... we are now in a situation where our courts are not sure whether they believe in the Constitution or not ...” is a vague statement not related to any particular Court, and something which is so general that no one would take any serious note of this statement... I do not think that this is a case where the offence of scandalising the Court or lowering the authority of the Court would arise,” the Attorney General said in his response.
PETITIONER NOW KNOCKS SOLICITOR GENERAL’S DOOR
Following decline of the plea by Venugopal, the petitioner has now approached Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, asking him to give consent for the proceedings against Bhasker. However, there is no provision in the law for the move.
“The petitioner herein respectfully differs with the reasons given by the Hon'ble Attorney General while declining the request,” the petitioner said in the appeal to Mehta read.