Delhi HC closes 2018 contempt case over remarks against Justice Muralidhar

The row began in 2018 when certain tweets alleging bias against Justice S Muralidhar, who was then a judge of the Delhi HC were posted by certain persons after he ordered the release of rights activist Gautam Navlakha from house arrest in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case.

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday closed its proceedings on a contempt case initiated by it against several individuals over certain alleged remarks against its then-sitting judge S Muralidhar in 2018.

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A bench headed by Justice Suresh Kumar Kait said after the “initiators” of the contemptuous content were discharged given their apologies, the pending proceedings against other parties, including author Anand Ranganathan, were a “sheer wastage of the time of the court”.

“We hereby close the proceedings,” ordered the bench, also comprising Justice Manoj Jain.

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In 2018, certain tweets alleging bias against Justice S Muralidhar, who was then a judge of the Delhi High Court and retired as the chief justice of the Orissa High Court last year, were posted by certain persons after he ordered the release of rights activist Gautam Navlakha from house arrest in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case.

Subsequently, contempt of court proceedings were initiated by the high court on its own against several alleged contemnors i.e. Swaminathan Gurumurthy, the publisher of an offending article, filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, and others.

“Since the initiators of the contemptuous allegations have been discharged in this proceeding, it is a sheer wastage of time to take action against others,” the court Wednesday said.

The counsel for Ranganathan argued that the proceedings against him were a “textbook case of abuse of contempt” as being an advocate of free speech, he had only tweeted in support of the right of a citizen to “make a comment”.

He added that his tweet did not support the allegations levelled against the high court judge.

The high court had initiated the criminal contempt proceedings in the present case on its own in 2018 after receiving a letter from senior advocate Rajshekhar Rao.

The contempt proceedings were also initiated against Swaminathan Gurumurthy, the editor of the Chennai-based weekly “Thuglak”, for his tweets against Justice Muralidhar following an article alleging bias.

The proceedings against Gurumurthy were subsequently closed in October 2019 after he agreed to re-tweet the apology of the author of the offending article.

The author of the offending article, Desh Kapoor, had in August 2019 tendered apology to the court and deleted the objectionable content.

Last year, the court also accepted the apology tendered by Agnihotri and discharged him. Rao, in his letter, had stated that the tweets were a deliberate attempt to attack a high court judge. Earlier, the court had directed two social media platforms to block the weblinks to an offending article levelling scandalous allegations against the judge.

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