The Attorney General of India has declined permission to an advocate to file a contempt plea against actor SwaraBhasker for comments on the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Babri Masjid and Ayodhya land dispute case; the comments were described by the petitioner as “derogatory”, “scandalous” and an “attack on the institution”.
The Attorney General’s nod is a must before filing a contempt petition in the top court.
Attorney General KK Venugopal said the comment was the “perception of the speaker” and did not “offer any comment on the Supreme Court itself or say anything that would scandalise or tend to scandalise… the authority of the Supreme Court“.
“In my opinion, this statement does not constitute criminal contempt” the Attorney General said.
The statement, reportedly made at an event in Mumbai, was written out in the Attorney General’s letter: “We are living in a country where the Supreme Court states that the demolition of the Babri Masjid was unlawful and, in the same judgment, rewards the same people who brought down the mosque”.
In November last year the Supreme Court had ruled that the formerly disputed land in Ayodhya belonged to the deity Ram Lalla, or the infant Lord Ram.
The court in contempt plea, however, also said that the razing of the 16th century Babri Masjid in December 1992 was unlawful and a “calculated act of destroying a place of public worship”.
In his statement today the Attorney General said the “statement in the first part appears to be a factual one, and is perception of the speaker”.
The second comment made by MsBhasker, also written out in the Attorney General’s letter today, said that “we are ruled by a government that doesn’t believe in our Constitution… we are ruled by police forces that do not believe in the Constitution… it seems we are now in a situation where our courts are not sure whether they believe in the Constitution…”
The statements in question were allegedly made by Bhasker at an event hosted by the “Mumbai Collective”. They pertained to the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Ayodhya land dispute case.
At this event, Bhasker is stated to have commented, inter alia,
“We are living in a country where the Supreme Court of our country states that the demolition of Babri masjid was unlawful and in the same judgment rewards the same people who brought down the mosque… We are now in a situation where our courts are not sure whether they believe in the constitution or not… What then do we do and it seems to me that as everyone has said that the path is clear to us and it has been shown to us by you all whoever of you all have been part of the protest by the students by the women and by the citizen protestors it is to resist…”
Petitioner Usha Shetty through advocates Anuj Saxena, Prakash Sharma, and Mahek Maheshwari stated that these comments intended to incite a lack of confidence in the judiciary among the people and that they question the integrity of the Court.
Thus, they amount to criminal contempt of Court, falling under the umbrella of “scandalizing the court“, the plea states.
The petitioner has now approached the Solicitor-General, Tushar Mehta for permission, contending that the petitioner differs with reasoning given by AG Venugopal.
“The Petitioner herein respectfully differs with the reasons given by the Hon’ble Attorney General of India… Thus it is most respectfully prayed to provide your kind consent in initiating criminal proceedings against MsSwaraBhasker”, reads the petitioner’s letter to Solicitor General Mehta.
The AG has maintained that the speech by actor Swara Bhasker “does not offer any comment on the Supreme Court itself” and that the statement does not constitute criminal contempt.
The AG has added that the statement by Bhasker that “We are now in a situation where are courts are not sure whether they believe in the constitution” is a vague statement and is general that no one would take note of it.
“I therefore, decline consent to initiate contempt proceedings against MsSwaraBhasker.”
Read the letter here: