A law student reportedly filed a plea to initiate proceedings for a tweet which was an "audacious assault and insult to the institution” of the Supreme Court.

An illustration from the web comic series Sanitary Panels showing a computer with the words "Co-Rona" aboveTwitter/Sanitary Panels
news Law and order Tuesday, December 01, 2020 - 20:18

Attorney-General KK Venugopal granted consent for contempt proceedings to be initiated against comic artist Rachita Taneja, who runs the popular comic Sanitary Panels. A law student reportedly filed a plea to initiate proceedings for a tweet which was an "audacious assault and insult to the institution” of the Supreme Court. 

Multiple tweets are referred to in the plea against Sanitary Panels. The first is a comic of Republic editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami between figures labelled the Supreme Court and the Bharatiya Janata Party, with a speech bubble on Arnab stating “Tu Janta Nahi Mera Baap Kaun Hai (You don’t know who my father is)”. 

Bar and Bench reported that the plea filed says that if the words 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. Therefore, the clear implication would be that the Supreme Court of India is biased towards the ruling political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and would tailor its judgments for the benefit of the ruling party.”

The second comic is a drawing of the Supreme Court of India with an orange flag planted on top, calling it the ‘Sanghi Court of India’, after Arnab Goswami got bail in the 2018 abetment to suicide case. “Arnab gets bail, real journalists get jail, independent judiciary is fail,” the tweet read. 

The plea reads, “carries a gross insinuation against the Apex Court of this country to the effect that the Supreme Court of India has ceased to be an impartial organ of the State. The tweet is clearly calculated to undermine the public confidence in the independence and impartiality of the Supreme Court of India.”

As per Bar and Bench, the plea states that the publication of the tweets and posts “scandalizes” the Supreme Court. 

“The line between humor and contempt of the Court has also been clearly violated. These posts not only erode the trust in the institution of justice by casting aspersions on the justice delivery mechanism, but also interferes with administration of justice. The tweets and posts are based on the distorted facts, inspired by malice, and amount to committing of ‘criminal contempt’,” it reportedly adds.

Rachita, a Bengaluru-based artist and activist, began drawing the webcomic series in 2014 and soon garnered thousands of followers for her tongue-in-cheek comics. Her work has focussed on humour, sexism, misogyny and feminism, and frequently comments on political and social justice issues. Her webcomic was the result of her response to a series of events that were unfolding in the country. Some of her recent comics covered the farmers' protest and features Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Another tweet that was referred to was a comic of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the characters holding up Ayodhya verdict and a Rajya Sabha seat, with the figure labelled as Gogoi saying “Pleasure doing business with you”. “Let’s not forget how we got here,” the tweet reads. Ranjan Gogoi was the Chief Justice of India from October 3, 2018, to November 17, 2019. In March this year, he assumed office as a member of the Rajya Sabha. 

Incidentally, AG Venugopal had given consent to initiate contempt proceedings against stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra — twice — for his tweets that were reportedly critical of the Indian judiciary. On November 11, a Mumbai lawyer had sought contempt proceedings against Kunal Kamra for criticising the Supreme Court after it granted interim bail to Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami in the 2018 abetment to suicide case. The Attorney General gave nod to start the contempt proceeding the very next day. On November 20, based on the request from a Prayagraj-based lawyer, the Attorney General granted consent to initiate contempt proceedings against Kunal Kamra for his tweet on November 18, reportedly against Chief Justice of India SA Bobde.

Calling the tweets “grossly vulgar and obnoxious”, AG Venugopal had said that it would tend to “lower the authority of the Supreme Court and undermine the confidence that the litigant public has in the institution of the Supreme Court itself.”  Comedian Kunal Kamra refused to either retract his tweets or offer an apology.

It must be noted that the consent of the attorney general or the solicitor general, under section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, is required to initiate contempt proceedings against an individual.

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