The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to stand-up comic Kunal Kamra and cartoonist Rachita Taneja for their controversial tweets and illustrations against the apex court. Both have been granted six weeks to respond to the notice explaining why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them for “scandalising the judiciary”.
Kunal Kamra’s controversial tweets
The stand-up comic faces contempt cases over his tweets attacking the top court for granting Republic TV’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami bail after his arrest in an abetment to suicide case. Eight people, mostly lawyers, have filed cases against him.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, RS Reddy and MR Shah sought a response from the two in six weeks on the notices issued in two separate cases. It, however, exempted them from personal appearances in the cases. The top court had reserved its order on Thursday on a batch of pleas seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against Kamra and Taneja.
Consent of attorney general
Attorney General KK Venugopal had granted consent for initiation of criminal contempt proceedings against Kamra, saying the tweets were in “bad taste” and it was time that people understand that attacking the apex court brazenly would attract punishment under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1972.
Similarly, the attorney general had given consent to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against Taneja, stating that the posts were intended to denigrate the Supreme Court and lower its authority in the eyes of the public.
The consent of either the attorney general or the solicitor general is necessary under section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act for initiating contempt proceedings against a person. Criminal contempt of the Supreme Court is punishable with a fine up to Rs 2,000 and imprisonment up to six months.
Kunal Kamra’s tussle with Arnab Goswami
Kunal Kamra, an observational comedian, is known for his political commentary. Earlier this year, he was banned by five Indian Airlines after an incident on an IndiGo flight, where he “allegedly heckled” Arnab Goswami.
On 28 January, Kamra, while travelling on an IndiGo flight, confronted Arnab Goswami, inviting him to debate with him. Kamra had raised questions about Arnab’s coverage of issues on national affairs and the suicide of Rohith Vemula. Kamra later released a 1.51minute-long video of the incident on Twitter, which showed a non-responsive Arnab while being questioned by Kamra.
The next day, Indigo banned Kamra from boarding its flight for a period of six months. The same day, government-owned airline Air India banned him indefinitely. Indian aviation minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, tweeted that the other airlines should follow suit and ban Kamra to ensure that an example was set. The next day, other airlines SpiceJet and GoAir also banned him indefinitely. The ban was criticised for being excessive for the incident and against the existing rules of DGCA.
Kunal Kamra had earlier said that he does not regret his tweets made after the Supreme Court granted interim bail to Arnab Goswami. Kunal Kamra had said that he stands by what he had said and the Supreme Court, rather than allocating time to the contempt pleas against him, should allocate time to cases on more important issues.
“No lawyers, No apology, No fine, No waste of space,” Kunal Kamra tweeted while explaining his stand on the subject.
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