Criticism of Supreme Court’s strictures against Nupur Sharma is fair comment: AG

THE Attorney-General (‘AG’) for India has declined to grant sanction to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against former Delhi High Court judge Justice S. N. Dhingra, and senior advocates Aman Lekhi and K. Rama Kumar, for criticising the Supreme Court’s oral observations against suspended Bharatiya Janta Party spokesperson Nupur Sharma.

“I find the statements made by the three persons, who are in the realm of ‘fair comment’ on a hearing conducted by the Supreme Court. The statements are not vituperative or abusive nor are they likely to interfere with the administration of justice”, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal held.

AG Venugopal was dealing with a letter sent by advocate Jaya Sukin seeking the consent of the former to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against the three. Last month, a vacation bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Surya Kant and J.B. Pardiwala observed that  Sharma “is single-handedly responsible for everything that is happening in the country” after her statements against Prophet Muhammad. In an interview with a TV channel, Justice Dhingra slammed the Supreme Court’s observations, calling them as ‘irresponsible’, ‘illegal’ and ‘unfair’.

Senior advocates Lekhi and Kumar also took a critical view of the Supreme Court’s observations in comments made to news website Verdictum. Lekhi said that the Supreme Court’s observations were totally unwarranted, while Kumar said that the Supreme Court judges had gone beyond the brief before them.

AG Venugopal, through a separate letter, also declined consent to initiate contempt charges against advocate Ashish Goel for his critical tweet of the Supreme Court. Goel took to Twitter to comment, “As a lawyer I am ashamed of the Indian Supreme Court today. #NupurSharma”.

The consent of either the AG or the Solicitor General is necessary under Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 for initiating contempt proceedings against a person.

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