Hours after Supreme Court website showed that it has taken suo motu cognisance of a plea seeking criminal contempt of court action against journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, a Supreme Court official told Bar & Bench that it was "an inadvertent mistake."
The official clarified that no contempt proceeding has been initiated against Rajdeep Sardesai and the error in this regard would be rectified soon.
“This is in context with news item being flashed in some news channels about initiating suo moto criminal contempt proceeding against Mr Rajdeep Sardesai by Supreme court, it is made clear that no such proceeding has been initiated against Mr Rajdeep Sardesai . However status shown at Supreme Court website vide case no. SMC (Crl) 02/2021 has been placed inadvertently. Appropriate action to rectify the same is under process.”Supreme Court statement
What Happened Earlier?
The Supreme Court website showed that the case against Sardesai was registered by the Supreme Court based on a petition by one Aastha Khurana.
The petition was filed by Khurana in September 2020 but was registered as a suo motu criminal contempt case in February 2021.
Earlier, Attorney General KK Venugopal had refused to grant consent to Khurana to initiate contempt proceedings against Sardesai.
On August 14, the day advocate Prashant Bhushan was convicted for contempt of court, Sardesai had tweeted, “Prashant Bhushan held guilty of contempt by Supreme Court, sentence to be pronounced on 20 August. This even as habeas corpus petitions of those detained in Kashmir for more than a year remain pending.”
Later, when the top court imposed a sentence of Re 1 on Bhushan on 31 August, Sardesai posted the following tweet:“Rs 1 token fine imposed by SC on Prashant Bhushan in contempt case. If he doesn’t pay it, then 3 months jail sentence. Clearly, court looking to wriggle out of an embarrassment of its own making.”
As per Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act and Rule 3 of Rules to Regulate Proceedings for Contempt of Supreme Court, the consent of the attorney general or the solicitor general is required before the apex court can hear a criminal contempt petition filed by a private individual.
Khurana had, therefore, approached AG Venugopal seeking permission to initiate contempt proceedings against the journalist.
In his reply to Khurana's letter, Venugopal stated that Sardesai’s tweets were not of a serious nature so as to undermine the majesty of the court or lower its stature in the minds of the public.
Regardless, Khurana went on to file a petition before the Supreme Court. In her petition, she has submitted that not only did "Sardesai question the credibility of this Hon’ble Court judgment, but he has also passed various comments against the Ex-Judges and Ex-Chief Justice of India in past and have also tried to teach the Hon’ble Judges their duties and responsibilities."
(This story was first published in Bar and Bench, and has been republished with permission.)