AG KK Venugopal declines permission to prosecute Digvijay Singh for contempt of court

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Attorney general (AG) KK Venugopal on Saturday declined to grant permission for the initiation of criminal contempt of the Supreme Court (SC) proceedings against Digvijaya Singh, a Congress Member of Parliament (MP) and a former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh (MP), for his two “uncalled for” tweets.

In one of his tweets, Singh had criticised the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government for introducing the Special Security Force (SSF) Act, 2020, and another for expressing doubts on whether a court would strike down the law.

Venugopal wrote to advocate Sumant Sudan and agreed that the tweets were uncalled for but did not merit action for a criminal contempt of the SC.

“I have given careful consideration to the tweets. The statements made are uncalled for. However, I do not believe that they merit action for criminal contempt of the SC of India,” Venugopal stated in his letter.

The SSF Act, 2020 empowers the UP government to establish a special security force for the better protection of persons, their residential premises and vital and strategic installations belonging to the state.

The law had come under spotlight for its provisions, which vests the special security force with sweeping powers.

Section 10 of the Act empowers the special security force to arrest any person without an arrest warrant if the person is suspected of having links to any cognisable offence concerning the notified establishments or if the authorities have reasons to believe that he is taking steps to commit such an offence.

Section 11 of the Act gives power to the special security force to arrest the person and seize his belongings without a warrant.

“Does the Indian Constitution permit such a law? Will the country’s judiciary consider such a law unconstitutional? Or will it decide in favour of the government under pressure? Let us wait and watch,” Singh had tweeted.

The tweet has the potential to shake the faith of the common public in the judicial process of the country, Sudan had said in his plea seeking AG’s consent to initiate a criminal contempt of the SC against Singh.

As per Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act and Rule 3 of Rules to Regulate Proceedings for Contempt of the SC, the consent of AG or the Solicitor General (SG) is required before the apex court can hear a criminal contempt plea filed by an individual.

Earlier, Venugopal had declined to grant consent for an initiation of criminal contempt of the SC against journalist Rajdeep Sardesai and actor Swara Bhaskar.

The contempt action was sought against Sardesai for his tweets criticising the SC’s handling of the contempt of court case against lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan.

Similar action was sought against Bhasker for her tweets criticising the SC and its judgement in the Ayodhya case on November 9, 2019.

Venugopal’s stance before the SC in the contempt of court case against advocate Bhushan was noteworthy, as the Centre’s top law officer had urged the apex court not to impose any punishment on the lawyer.

Venugopal had appeared in that case in his personal capacity at the apex court’s request on August 20.

He had requested the SC to let Bhushan off with a reprimand.

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