Explained: The Contempt Proceedings Against Kunal Kamra

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The Attorney General, KK Venugopal gave his consent to initiate contempt proceedings against stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra for his alleged tweets which attempted to lower the Supreme Court’s authority. He made a series of tweets after the Apex Court granted interim bail to Arnab Goswami, Republic TV Editor-in-Chief.

2018 Abetment to Suicide Case

In May 2018, Arnab Goswami and 2 others were charged with abetment to suicide by the Alibaug police. But due to lack of evidence, the case was closed. This year, it was reopened once again and Arnab was arrested by Maharashtra police.

On November 11, 2020, the Honourable Supreme Court in its order, granted interim bail to Arnab Goswami. The order granted interim bail to Arnab Goswami, saying personal liberty is increasingly becoming a casualty in the country. The Court warned the accused not to do anything to tamper with evidence or influence witnesses.

After the release of Arnab Goswami, many people and journalists criticized the Court’s order and pointed out that, “why this personal liberty is granted only for Arnab, why not for other journalists who have ended up in prison, without any reasons”. They questioned why the principle of upholding personal liberty does not apply to other journalists.

Tweets by Kunal Kamra

Kunal Kamra made his tweets after the Honourable Supreme Court granted interim bail to Arnab Goswami in the abetment to the suicide case. Tweets made by Kunal Kamra are mentioned below,

  1. “The Supreme Court of this country is the most Supreme joke of this country…”
  2. “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…”
  3. “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 board or seated, let also serve.”
  4. “All lawyers with a spine must stop the use of the prefix “Honourable” while referring to the Supreme Court or its judges. Honourable has left the building long back…”

He also posted a morphed image of the Supreme Court building depicting a BJP flag hoisted in the foyer of the Supreme Court.

Contempt proceedings Against Kunal Kamra

As per reports from Bar and Bench, the Attorney General has received a total of 10 letters seeking contempt proceedings against Kunal Karma. Wherein he granted consent to 8 letters to initiate contempt proceedings. He mentioned that Kunal’s tweets were “highly objectionable“, and had crossed the line between humour and Contempt of Court. He, however, stated that the final call should be made by the Honourable Supreme Court of India. He also stated that freedom of speech and expression is provided by the Indian constitution but is not an absolute right. It is subject to the law of contempt.

Even after the notification that confirmed the contempt proceedings against Kunal, he refused to apologize and retract his tweets. Thereafter he made a tweet stating, “No lawyers, no apology, no fine, no waste of space”. He further contended that due to the silence of the Supreme Court, he neither wishes to retract his tweets against the Supreme Court nor apologize for the same. He mentioned that initiating a contempt trial and also other procedures is a full waste of time. He advised the apex Court to spend its time and attention on issues such as the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the petition on demonetization, and the legality of electoral bonds.

Right to Freedom of Speech v. Contempt of Court

The constitution of India guarantees the Right to Freedom of Speech under Article- 19(1). But when compared to other Fundamental rights, this right to freedom of speech is restrictive or subject to certain restrictions. No person shall stigma the integrity, sovereignty, and security of India, and no one shall imbuse, abet others for the same.

Recently, we could see many contempt proceedings have been initiated in the Honourable Supreme Court of India by law students and advocates. It is because Right to freedom of expression and speech and judiciary independence are two concepts that contradict each other. In a democratic government, people have the freedom to criticize the government, but yet a proper line has not to be drawn by the legislature or judiciary. When criticism has the potential to lower the authority of the Court or have lowered the authority, under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, the Court has the power to punish a person for Contempt of Court. However, Section- 5 of the said act, allows fair criticisms. 

Even though the constitution protects the right to freedom of expression and speech, some are misusing this right. For example, in this case (contempt proceedings against Kunal Kamra), Kunal Kamra defamed the judiciary and lowered the authority of the Court. Even after he was warned of his act as an offence, he refused to apologize and retract his tweets. This proves his mala fide intention and intent to defame judiciary

Conclusion

The Attorney General, KK Venugopal, has given consent to initiate Contempt of Court proceedings against stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra for his tweets, which were against the Supreme court and its judges. Kunal Kamra has refused to apologize for making those tweets and retracting the same.    


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