NEW DELHI: After pleading for no punishment to convicted contemnor Prashant Bhushan, attorney general K K Venugopal on Sunday refused to permit filing of a contempt petition against actor Swara Bhasker for her allegedly derogatory comments against the Supreme Court on the Ayodhya land dispute verdict.
Under the Contempt of Court Act, 1971, consent of the AG or the solicitor general is needed to initiate contempt proceedings against anyone. Venugopal told TOI: “I declined consent as there is no attack on the Supreme Court. It is mere innuendo. Initiating contempt proceedings would mean giving more credence to her statement, which is not needed.”
Venugopal himself had initiated contempt proceedings against Bhushan for accusing the government of forging documents in the CBI director’s appointment and later on sought its withdrawal after the lawyer regretted the mistake on his part and withdrew the allegations.
On the petition against Bhasker, the AG said: “The Supreme Court need not be extra sensitive. If we start contempt proceedings, it unnecessarily gives publicity to the wrong remarks. In this case, her ire was more against the government and the comments against the SC were mere innuendoes. I do not want the Supreme Court to be embroiled in another controversy when one (against Bhushan) is already attracting a lot of adverse public reaction.”
“The Supreme Court should not be jumping to conclusions about someone scandalising the court and drawing up contempt proceedings when foreign jurisdictions have gradually discarded contempt for scandalising the courts through mere criticism.”
Bhasker had said: “We are living in a country where the Supreme Court states in a judgment that demolition of Babri Masjid was unlawful and in the same judgment rewards the same people who brought down the mosque.”
One Usha Shetty had termed Bhasker’s statement contemptuous and sought the AG’s permission to initiate contempt proceedings against the actor.
Sources told TOI that Shetty has now moved the petition before solicitor general Tushar Mehta for permission. It is not clear in the Contempt of Court Act if a person intending to initiate contempt proceedings against another could seek permission from the SG after the same was declined by the AG.
In February 2016, then attorney general Mukul Rohatgi had declined consent for initiation of contempt proceedings against Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and SAR Geelani for terming the execution of Afzal Guru as “judicial execution”.