A petition has been filed before Attorney-General of India KK Venugopal, asking for the initiation of criminal contempt proceedings against actress Swara Bhasker.
The petition alleges 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.
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 were 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 claims 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.”
The petitioner, one Usha Shetty, claims that this statement intends to “incite feeling of no confidence amongst public with respect to the proceedings of this Hon’ble court and integrity of the Hon’ble Judges of the Apex Court of India.”
The lawyers who have filed the petition for Shetty include Mahek Maheshwari, who had filed the petition which led to the suo motu contempt case against Bhushan for his tweets.
Controversially, the court had taken up Maheshwari’s petition even though prior permission had not been taken from the Attorney-General before filing it, as required under the Rules to Regulate Proceedings for Contempt of the Supreme Court, 1975.
This petition against Bhasker can only proceed if the A-G grants his permission, unless, of course, the apex court decides to take this up suo motu in the same manner. While the first part of the allegedly objectionable statement is an opinion and hence something which might be able to attract contempt, the second part is entirely factually accurate, begging the question of how it can amount to contempt.