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Attorney General KK Venugopal consents to contempt proceedings against cartoonist who criticised Supreme Court

justice, law, globe

We missed this earlier: The Attorney General of India, KK Venugopal, granted consent for proceedings to be initiated against Rachita Taneja, an artist who runs the Twitter handle @sanitarypanels, for allegedly being in contempt of the Supreme Court. This was first reported by Bar and Bench. Venugopal was replying to a letter sent by an Aditya Kashyap, a law student from Punjab’s Rajiv Gandhi National Law University, who had taken offence to a cartoon Taneja had shared.

Taneja’s cartoon showed ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Supreme Court flanking news presenter Arnab Goswami as he says “Tu Janta Nahi Mera Baap Kaun Hai (you don’t know who my father is)”. It was shared after Goswami had secured bail after being arrested by Maharashtra police for allegedly abetting a suicide in Mumbai in 2018. Another related tweet, in which Taneja said “Arnab gets bail, real journalists get jail, independent judiciary is fail”. This caption was accompanied by a cartoon of a saffron flag flying on top of the Supreme Court building.

Kashyap had reportedly also referred to another tweet by Taneja from August, in which she allegedly depicted a quid pro quo relationship between the judiciary and the Indian government in view of the Ayodhya Ram Mandir verdict.

Kashyap told Venugopal that Taneja’s work violated the “line between humour and contempt of the Court”. In reply, Venugopal agreed, saying that “each of the tweets with cartoons attached is in contempt of the Supreme Court of India, hence I grant my consent”.

This is not the first time Venugopal, as attorney general, has consented to initiate contempt proceedings in recent times. A month ago, comedian Kunal Kamra was in trouble for his “highly objectionable” tweets. Venugopal, again responding to requests from law students, consented to initiate contempt proceedings against Karma for calling the apex court a “supreme joke” and saying that “honour” had left the Supreme Court building. These tweets were, too, posted in light of Goswami being granted bail by the court.

In July this year, advocate Prashant Bhushan was subject to contempt proceedings for a tweet that was critical of the Supreme Court. Bhushan refused to apologise for the tweet. The court then penalised him with ₹1 as punishment for committing criminal contempt, and “scandalising the court”. Per Bar and Bench’s reporting, the Bhushan case has since paved way for at least 18 letters filed by various lawyers, law students and so on, seeking permission to prosecute eight personalities, including journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, actor Swara Bhasker, politician Digvijay Singh, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, conservative activist  Shefali Vaidhya, Kamra and Taneja.

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