There is a very thin line between voicing out one’s opinion and contempt. More often than not people find themselves getting called out for their statements made on the functioning of the judiciary in particular as contemptuous. The line that is drawn between freedom of speech and expression is often pointed out by the judiciary.
A suit was filed by a law student Aastha Khurana on certain tweets made by the journalist Rajdeep Sardesai that criticised judiciary and judicial functioning. The complaint was first brought before Attorney General of India, KK Venugopal, who refused to admit it as it was felt that, “the tweets were not serious enough to undermine the majesty of the Court.”
Breaking: @pbhushan1 held guilty of contempt by SC, sentence to be pronounced on August 20.. this even as habeas corpus petitions of those detained in Kashmir for more than a year remain pending! 🙏
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) August 14, 2020
The case was then filed before the Supreme Court on 21st September 2020. An interlocutory application was filed on February 9th 2021, and a case was registered on 13th February 2021 as In Re Rajdeep Sardesai. The case number was SMC(Crl) 2/2020. The petitioner contended that
“Such attacks on this Hon’ble Court is not a freedom of speech and expression, but it has done purposely in order to defame and disrespect the image of the Court.”
There were a few tweets that according to the petitioner had been referring to which has been referred to as ‘scandalous.’ The first tweet is with reference to the Re. 1 fine that was imposed on Advocate Prashant Bhushan in the contempt case filed against him. The tweet read, “Clearly, court looking to wriggle out of an embarrassment of its own making.” There have other tweets that have also been termed contemptuous. This includes a tweet that was made against the words of former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, which stated that
“and then one of the judges tell me last week that the Ayodhya case is not political! Would the CJI go to Kashmir too before tackling Article 370 case? You are the CJI Mr. Gogoi, not the DGP!!Not yet at least.”
Other tweets include one that compared the contempt case against Prasant Bhushan with the cases of the Kashmir detainees and there was another tweet which was deleted that defamed (Retd.) Justice Arun Mishra
Supreme Court Clarification
The Supreme Court clarified that no criminal contempt proceedings have been started against Rajdeep Sardesai. The case status that was displayed on the Supreme Court website was done “inadvertently.” The Court also stated that actions were being taken to correct the mistake. The case status on the Supreme Court website was down at the time of the release of the clarification.
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