A petition was filed before the Supreme Court on Monday seeking initiation of criminal contempt of court proceedings against Bollywood actor Swara Bhasker for her statements criticising the top court and its judgment in the Ayodhya dispute.
The plea, filed by Usha Shetty from Karnataka, was placed before the Attorney General of India, KK Venugopal, for his consent to list the matter before the court. As per Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act and Rule 3 of Rules to Regulate Proceedings for Contempt of Supreme Court, the consent of Attorney General is required before the apex court can hear a criminal contempt petition filed by a private individual.
On February 1, the actor had attended a panel discussion organised by NGO Mumbai Collective on the topic ‘Artists against Communalism’. During the discussion, Bhasker, as alleged by the petitioner, said: “We are now in a situation where our courts are not sure whether they believe in the Constitution or not…We are living in a country where the Supreme Court of our country states in a judgment that the demolition of Babri Masjid was unlawful and in the same judgment rewards the same people who brought down the mosque.”
The November 9 judgment of the Supreme Court in the Ayodhya dispute, which was delivered by a bench headed by former CJI Ranjan Gogoi, had awarded the 2.77 acre disputed site to Ram Lalla Virajman, the child deity. The bench had also ordered that 5 acres of land at an alternative site should be granted to Muslims for construction of a new mosque.
The apex court had, interestingly, acknowledged the existence of a valid mosque at the disputed site and had expressly stated that the acts of Hindus in placing idols inside the mosque in 1949 and destruction of the mosque in 1992 were illegal.
Shetty submitted that the statement by Bhasker is derogatory and intended to scandalise the Supreme Court. It is not merely a cheap stunt for publicity but a deliberate attempt to incite masses to “resist and revolt against the apex court”, she added.
“The statement intends to incite a feeling of no confidence amongst the public with respect to the proceedings of the Supreme Court. It amounts to criminal contempt,” the petition said.
HT did dial the actor for a comment, but she was unreachable.
The Supreme Court had recently initiated contempt of court proceedings against advocate Prashant Bhushan for his tweets against the court and the Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde. The court had, on August 14, convicted Bhushan for the same and will hold a separate hearing on August 20 to decide the punishment to be given to him.
What is noteworthy is that the petition against Bhushan was filed by one of Shetty’s lawyers, Mehek Maheshwari. Maheshwari had not obtained Attorney General’s consent in that case but the court nevertheless took up the matter suo motu based on Maheshwari’s petition.