The Delhi High Court Tuesday asked filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri to remain present in court on the next date of hearing after he tendered an unconditional apology for his tweets on former High Court judge Justice S Muralidhar. The court was hearing his application in a 2018 suo motu criminal contempt case pertaining to tweets by him and several others.
Agnihotri’s lawyer submitted before a division bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Talwant Singh that Agnihotri had filed an “unconditional apology in connection with the tweets” in an affidavit. “We only require your presence,” the High Court said.
The amicus curiae in the matter, senior advocate Arvind Nigam, informed the High Court that Agnihotri’s affidavit is at variance with the one submitted by social media platform Twitter.
“He (Vivek Agnihotri) says he took down the tweets, Twitter says they took them down. What he has asserted is contrary to what Twitter has said,” Nigam said.
Twitter submitted in its affidavit that as per the High Court order, on October 29, 2018, Twitter took down Agnihotri’s tweets.
Nigam further said that Agnihotri appeared in the proceedings in 2018, but he stopped doing so sometime later.
The High Court, thereafter, asked Agnihotri’s counsel to ask his client to remain present in court as he is the alleged contemnor.
“If he has to express remorse he has to do it before us,” Justice Mridul said.
Agnihotri has filed an affidavit expressing his unconditional apology and an application to recall the order of the ex-parte hearing, seeking permission to participate in the proceedings.
The High Court allowed Agnihotri’s application to participate in the contempt proceedings but asked him to remain present in court on the next date of hearing in March 2023.
The court asked Agnihotri’s counsel if his client had difficulty appearing before the court, to which the counsel submitted that there was no difficulty.
In October 2018, a division bench led by Justice S Muralidhar, who was a Delhi High Court judge then, freed activist Gautam Navlakha, who was arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case, from house arrest. On October 5, 2018, Agnihotri had tweeted alleging bias on behalf of Justice Muralidhar, who is the current Chief Justice of Orissa High Court.
In September this year, the High Court had decided to proceed ‘ex parte’ against Agnihotri as well as M/s News & Views, Anand Ranganathan and Swarajya Magazine, among others, who did not appear in the criminal contempt case despite notices being served to them.