The Supreme Court on Friday, 18 December, issued notices to comedian Kunal Kamra and comic illustrator Rachita Taneja on the petitions seeking criminal contempt action against them, LiveLaw reported.
While proceedings were initiated against Kamra for his tweets made about the Supreme Court and its judges, Taneja has been accused of publishing allegedly objectionable caricatures on her webcomic Sanitary Panels’ social media handles about the judiciary.
Both have been asked to file replies within six weeks.
The cases were heard by a bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah.
Attorney General KK Venugopal had given consent for filing of the contempt pleas against Kamra on 12 November, stating that, “... under the Constitution, the freedom of speech is subject to the law of contempt and I believe that it is time that people understand that attacking the Supreme Court of India unjustifiably and brazenly will attract punishment under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1972,” Live Law reported.
Two weeks later, he also okay-ed contempt charges against Taneja.
What is the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971?
Under the act, a contempt of court petition can be filed by a private individual in Supreme Court only after obtaining the consent of the Attorney General or the Solicitor General.
Similar consent has to be obtained from the concerned Advocate General of the State when filing a contempt petition before a High Court, Bar and Bench reported.
What Is the Case Against Kamra?
The four tweets, according to a report by Bar and Bench, over which proceedings were initiated against Kamra, read:
- “All lawyers with a spine must stop the use of the prefix 'Hon’ble' while referring to the Supreme Court or its judges. Honour has left the building (Supreme Court) long back.”
- “The Supreme Court of this country is the most Supreme joke of this country.”
- “The pace at which the Supreme Court operates in matters of 'National Interests' it’s time we replace Mahatma Gandhi’s photo with Harish Salve’s photo...”
- “DY Chandrachud is a flight attendant serving champagne to first class passengers after they’re fast tracked through, while commoners don’t know if they’ll ever be boarded or seated, let alone served.”
In another tweet, Kamra had shared an image of the Supreme Court building dressed in saffron colours with the BJP flag on top instead of the national flag.
These tweets came after the Supreme Court order granting bail to the editor-in-chief on Republic TV, Arnab Goswami.
A-G KK Venugopal, while approving contempt proceedings against Kamra, had said that his tweets “are not only in bad taste but clearly cross the line between humour and contempt of the Court.”
“This is a gross insinuation against the entirety of the Supreme Court of India that the Supreme Court of India is not an independent and impartial institution and so too its judges, but on the other hand is a Court of the ruling party, the BJP, existing for the BJP’s benefit,” Venugopal had said.
What Is the Case Against Taneja?
Following the Supreme Court’s decision to grant interim bail to television anchor Arnab Goswami, Taneja, who tweets from a handle by the name of @sanitarypanels, had on 12 November posted a caricature in which there were three characters.
- While one of the characters carried the text ‘BJP’ in its face, the other was named ‘Supreme Court’. In between these two characters, a rather small character – the only one with hair on scalp – could be seen with a microphone with ‘R’ written on it.
- The text above the picture read Tu Jaanta Nahi Mera Baap Kaun Hai (you don't’ know who my father is.)
Granting consent to Aditya Kashyap, a law student, over proceedings against Taneja, Venugopal had said that Taneja’s tweets had presented the Supreme Court of India “as biased towards the ruling party."
“If the first tweet depicting Arnab Goswami with the Supreme Court of India and Bharatiya Janata Party by his side and with Arnab mouthing the words ‘Tu jaanta nahi mera baap kaun hai” were to be believed, one would have to proceed on the basis that the BJP is somehow interested in protecting Arnab Goswami and has prevailed upon the Supreme Court to do so,” Venugopal had said.
Rachita Taneja is an Indian artist/cartoonist who identifies as the creator of the webcomic titled "Sanitary Panels", which she started in 2014.
Taneja is also the co-founder of Internet Freedom Foundation, which advocates net neutrality, privacy and free speech on the internet. She reportedly attended the Obama Foundation's Town Hall in New Delhi in 2017.
(with inputs from Bar and Bench and Live Law)