SC remarks row: Attorney General K.K. Venugopal had declined a request to initiate contempt of court proceedings against Rajya Sabha MP and senior advocate Kapil Sibal for his statement allegedly against the Supreme Court.
Responding to Delhi-based lawyer Vineet Jindal’s request, in a letter, the Attorney General said: “Having gone through the entirety of Sibal’s speech, I find that his criticism of the court and the judgements was so that the court may take note of the statements in the larger interests of the justice delivery system. It does not appear to me that the statements were intended to scandalise the court or affect the confidence of the public in the institution.”
Declining consent, Venugopal said: “The statements which pertain to loss of faith in the Supreme Court are not contemptous on the face of it, as the import of those statements is the fact that the orders of the Supreme Court are not implemented on the ground. No part of these statements casts any blame or aspersion upon the court.”
SC remarks row
Additionally, the statements relating to the critiques of certain judgements delivered by the Supreme Court would fall squarely within the purview of ‘fair comment’, which is permissible under Section 5 of the Contempt of Courts Act 1971 itself, he pointed out in the letter.
Referring to a press conference of four SC judges on January 12, 2018, Venugopal said they expressed these same views in relation to allocation of cases by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, and that “there have been instances where cases having far reaching consquences for the nations and the institution have been assigned by the chief justices of this court selectively to the benches ‘of their preference’ without any rational basis for such assignment. This must be guarded against at all costs.
SC remarks row: AG refuses sanction for contempt of court proceedings against Sibal
“Under Section 16 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, a Judge can be held in contempt of his own Court. However, no action had ever been initiated by the Supreme Court against the makers of those statements and therefore. in my opinion it would not be appropriate that action be initiated against Sibal,” the AG said.
In his letter to the AG, Jindal had alleged that “Kapil Sibal… has directly made allegations with intent to disgrace and scandalise the sitting judges of the highest court, the Supreme Court, of our country. The statements by Sibal has scandalised the judgments passed by the Supreme Court judges and accused the judges for being corrupt.”
SC remarks row
Jindal claimed Sibal had reportedly said: “… I do not want to talk like this about a court where I have practised for 50 years but the time has come. If we don’t speak it, who will? The reality is such that any sensitive matter which we know has a problem is placed before certain judges and we know the outcome.”
The letter further added, Sibal also questioned the independence of the judiciary saying: “Jis court mein judge bithaye jaate hain (where judges are placed) through a process of compromise, a court where there is no system to determine which case will be presided over by which bench, where the Chief Justice of India decides which matter will be dealt with by which bench and when, that court can never be independent.”