Justifying “fair and reasonable criticism”, Attorney General KK Venugopal has said there can be no contempt-of-court proceedings against a former judge and two lawyers who had criticised the Supreme Court’s observations on Nupur Sharma for her comments against Prophet Mohammed and Islam.
A lawyer, CR Jaya Sukin, had sought a contempt case against former Delhi High Court judge SN Dhingra, former additional solicitor general Aman Lekhi, and senior advocate K Rama Kumar. Law says consent from the Attorney General is mandatory for it. The AG refused, saying, “The Supreme Court in a large number of judgments has held that fair and reasonable criticism of judicial proceedings would not constitute contempt of court.” The comments by these three men were not abusive, he said.
At the centre of the controversy are observations by a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, including that Nupur Sharma “is single-handedly responsible for everything that is happening in the country” after her statements. These observations were criticised by a number of former judges, including SN Dhingra, and even former army officers.
In his letter to the AG specifically about a former judge and two lawyers, advocate Jaya Sukin told said these three men “insulted the Supreme Court and not only cast aspersions on the integrity of the top court but also attempted to scandalise the nation’s highest judiciary”.
But the AG has replied, “I am not satisfied that the criticism made by the three persons named in your letter is with malice or is an attempt to impair the administration of justice, or that it was deliberate and motivated attempt to bring down the image of the judiciary.”
Nupur Sharma had gone to the Supreme Court demanding that FIRs registered against her across the country should be clubbed and transferred to Delhi. The court, on July 1, refused her plea and made some scathing comments. The judges said Nupur Sharma’s “loose tongue” had “set the entire country on fire”, and that her comments were either for cheap publicity, political agenda or some “nefarious” activities. The observations were not part of the final order, though.
Criticising these observations, 15 ex-judges, 77 former bureaucrats and 25 retired officers of the armed forces wrote an open letter to Chief Justice of India CV Ramana.