The Supreme Court has registered a suo moto criminal contempt case against journalist Rajdeep Sardesai on a complaint filed by one Aastha Khurana alleging that some of his tweets scandalized judiciary.
It is pertinent to note that in September 2020, the Attorney General for India, KK Venugopal, had refused sanction to initiate criminal contempt on the same complaint.
Following the refusal of the AG's sanction, the petitioner filed a fresh petition directly in the Supreme Court. As per the information available in the Supreme Court website, the petition filed on September 21, 2020 is seen registered as a Suo Moto(Criminal Contempt) case on February 13, 2021(SMC(Crl) 2/2021).
The petitioner referred to a tweet from 31.08.2020, wherein Sardesai had remarked saying "Clearly, court looking to wriggle out of an embarrassment of its own making", in the context of the Re. 1 fine imposed on Prashant Bhushan in his contempt case.
Another tweet from 14.08.2020 was also highlighted wherein it is stated that Sardesai compared the judgment in Prashant Bhushan's case to Habeas Corpus petitions of those detained in Kashmir.
Further reference is made to a tweet which was posted on 23.07.2020 and allegedly cast aspersions on (Retd.) Justice Arun Mishra. Though the tweet was later deleted, elaborates the petition, it received "huge media publicity" and "questioned the fairness" of the Court.
The complaint also refers to a tweet from 2019, in which Sardesai made a comment against former CJI Ranjan Gogi as :"and then one of the judges tell me last week that the Ayodhya case is not political! Would the CJI go to Kashmir too before tackling Article 370 case? You are the CJI Mr.Gogoi, not the DGP!!Not yet at least".
"Such attacks on this Hon'ble Court is not a freedom of speech and expression, but it has done purposely in order to defame and disrespect the image of the Court", contends the petitioner.
The Petitioner went on to submit that Sardesai is a "well known personally and various people take his statement as true and correct, therefore his statement on the top judicial body of his country indicates a threat to the society, which will lead to no trust on the judiciary and the justice will never deliver to the people because they will look at this Hon'ble Court with a questionable eyes and all the respect of this prestigious institution will vanish."
The Attorney General had opined that the said tweets of Sardesai were not "serious enough to undermine the majesty of the Court".
"Mr. Sardesai's 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 the SC as one of the great pillars of our democracy has been built assiduously over the last 70 years. Trifling remarks and mere passing of criticism though perhaps distasteful are unlikely to tarnish the image of the institution". AG had said.