Updated: February 17, 2021 8:22:24 am
HOURS AFTER its official website showed that a suo motu criminal contempt case had been registered against journalist Rajdeep Sardesai over a complaint that he allegedly made “disrespectful comments” against the judiciary, the Supreme Court Tuesday night clarified that it had not initiated any such proceeding and that what was reflected on its website was “placed inadvertently”.
“This is in context with news item being flashed in some news channels about initiating suo motu criminal contempt proceeding against Mr Rajdeep Sardesai by Supreme Court, it is made clear that no such proceeding has been initiated against Mr Rajdeep Sardesai. However, status shown at Supreme Court website vide case no. SMC (Crl) 02/2021 has been placed inadvertently. Appropriate action to rectify the same is under process,” an official communication from the top court said.
Sources in the Supreme Court termed it an “administrative error”.
Earlier in the day, media reports relied on the Supreme Court’s website which showed that the petition filed by Haryana resident Aastha Khurana through Advocate Omprakash Parihar on September 21 last year was registered on February 13.
On September 17 last year, Attorney General K K Venugopal had declined consent to initiate contempt action against Sardesai for a series of tweets, saying that his statements “are not of so serious a nature as to undermine the majesty of the Supreme Court or lower its stature in the minds of the public”.
“The reputation of Supreme Court as one of the great pillars of our democracy has been built assiduously over the last 70 years. Trifling remarks and mere passing criticism though perhaps distasteful are unlikely to tarnish the image of the institution,” Venugopal had said, replying to Parihar who had sought his consent for initiating contempt proceedings against Sardesai.
The consent of either the Attorney General or the Solicitor General is necessary for initiating contempt proceedings against a person.
Khurana’s petition alleged that some of Sardesai’s “disrespectful” tweets on the judiciary fell within the definition of action which “scandalises the court”. It said that “on each judgment, the alleged contemnor/respondent has passed various disrespectful comments and questioned the fairness and credibility of this hon’ble court”.
The plea referred to Sardesai’s tweets on August 31, 2020, regarding the Re 1 token fine imposed by the court on advocate Prashant Bhushan for contempt of court. It also drew the court’s attention to a tweet by Sardesai, allegedly casting aspersions on former judge Justice Arun Mishra in the context of a case related to the political turmoil in Rajasthan.
“Later on, this tweet was deleted by the alleged contemnor/ respondent, but it has got huge media publicity and has again questioned the fairness of this hon’ble court, which is again a big threat to the judiciary,” said the plea.
It said Sardesai “has also passed various comments against the ex-judges and ex-Chief Justice of India in the past and… tried to teach the hon’ble judges their duties and responsibilities”.
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