The comedian and the web comic artist have been asked to respond to the notice in six weeks.

A collage of comedian Kunal Kamra and a comic made by artist Sanitary Panels
news Court Friday, December 18, 2020 - 11:19

The Supreme Court on Friday decided to proceed with contempt cases against comedian Kunal Kamra and web comic artist Sanitary Panels and issued notices to both of them. The Supreme Court has asked them to respond to notices within six weeks, but has not mandated the personal appearance of either. A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah was hearing pleas filed against both of them seeking criminal contempt proceedings over their tweets against the Supreme Court and the judiciary. 

Attorney General KK Venugopal had earlier granted consent for initiation of criminal contempt proceedings against Kunal Kamra, saying his tweets about the Supreme Court are in bad taste and it is time that people understand that attacking the apex court brazenly will attract punishment under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1972.

One of petitions against the comedian has been filed by law student Shrirang Katneshwarkar and others, claiming that Kamra had started publishing tweets on November 11, when the top court was hearing the appeal of journalist Arnab Goswami against the Bombay High Court's order rejecting his plea seeking interim bail in a 2018 abetment to suicide case. The plea has alleged that his tweets are in 'such bad taste that an ordinary prudent man can gather that he has scandalised the apex court.'

Attorney General KK enugopal had granted consent for initiation of criminal contempt proceedings against Kamra for his tweets and said that today people believe that they can boldly and brazenly condemn the Supreme Court of India and its judges by exercising their freedom of speech, but under the Constitution, the freedom of speech is subject to the law of contempt.

Meanwhile, artist Sanitary Panels is facing contempt proceedings for her alleged objectionable comics against the apex court. On Thursday, the Supreme Court took note of the fact that Attorney General K K Venugopal has consented to the plea filed by law student Aditya Kashyap against the comic artist. 

The Attorney General had opined that the tweets are "deliberately intended to shake the confidence of the public in the judiciary," the counsel for the law student submitted in court.

Venugopal, in his consent letter to Kashyap for initiating criminal contempt proceedings against Taneja, said, "I am satisfied that each one of the tweets with the cartoons attached to them is in contempt of the Supreme Court of India, and hence I give my consent to initiate proceedings under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 in regard to each one of the tweets.

Kashyap had filed the petition through lawyer Namit Saxena, who is an advocate-on-record, on December 5 after receiving the written consent of the Attorney General for initiation of proceedings against her for three posts with images which are allegedly outrageous, contemptuous, carry insinuations and deliberately attribute motives to judges of Supreme Court and their judgments.

Sanitary Panel’s posts, the petition said, have gone viral and have been widely shared and subscribed by people attacking the institution of judiciary. The artist, being a social media influencer, has thousands of followers across various platforms, it said.

The Attorney General in his written consent to initiate criminal contempt proceedings, had stated that these posts are intended to denigrate the Supreme Court and lower its authority in the eyes of the public, and thus the cartoons were in contempt of the top court.

The consent of either the Attorney General or the Solicitor General is necessary, under section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, for initiating contempt proceedings against a person. Criminal contempt of the Supreme Court is punishable with fine up to Rs 2,000 and imprisonment up to six months.

With PTI inputs

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