‘Our dignity doesn’t come from what people have to say…’: Delhi HC in Vivek Agnihotri contempt case

New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri on Monday tendered an in-person apology before the Delhi High Court for his tweets against Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court, S. Muralidhar.
A division bench of Justice SiddharthMridul and Justice Vikas Mahajan subsequently recalled the show cause notice for initiating proceedings of criminal contempt against Agnihotri and also discharged him as the alleged contemnor.
“He states that he has the utmost respect for the institution of the judiciary and didn’t intend to willfully offend the majesty of the court,” the court said.
Twitter has become a source of great misery, it added.
Discharging Agnihotri, the High Court said the dignity of courts does not come from what people have to say about the judiciary but from the duties the courts discharge.
“Chief Justice RanjanGogoi in contempt rendered a decision… courts do not punish for contempt to secure their dignity. Our dignity doesn’t come from what people have to say. Our dignity comes from the work, the duties we discharge,” Justice Mridul observed during the hearing.
The court said the matter was kept pending only to make it clear that statements can’t be made irresponsibly.
“In fact, the classic case is where somebody commented about the House of Lords that they are ‘old idiots’ to which Lord Templeman very famously said that insofar as the first expression is concerned I cannot deny that I am old; in so far as the expression fool is concerned, I will disagree with you but it does not amount to contempt. Surely, our dignity is founded on stronger foundations. Our dignity is not because somebody says something,” said Justice Mridul.
“Lawyers say something about us every time they leave the courtroom. If we were to start prosecuting you for that, there will never be any end to it.”
The court, however, cautioned Agnihotri to remain careful in the future.
Justice Mridul orally said: “We’ll be also cautioning you, Mr. Agnihotri to be careful in going forward.”
Appearing for another alleged contemnor Anand Ranganathan, advocate J. Sai Deepak requested a short accommodation and submitted that he will remain present in court on the next date of the hearing.
Hearing another connected criminal contempt case filed by Delhi High Court Bar Association against S Gurumurthy, Justice Mridul said: “What is relevant is that every citizen should know that you must be careful. We invite just and fair criticism. It’s how we function. But the fact is sometimes every proceedings runs its course, we can’t keep them pending beyond that.”
The court has now listed the matter for hearing on May 24.
On March 16, the court had directed Agnihotri to appear before it on April 10 to tender an apology in person.
In December last year, the filmmaker had apologised to the court for his remarks but it had deferred the hearing after recording his submission that he will remain present personally in court for the hearing on March 16.
However, Agnihotri appeared via video conferencing and said that he has a fever.
An affidavit was filed by the director withdrawing his statement against the judge and tendering his apology during the last hearing.
In 2018, Agnihotri allegedly retweeted a post against Justice Muralidhar in respect of the judge’s order quashing the order of house arrest and transit remand of activist GautamNavlakha in the BhimaKoregaon case.
As a result, contempt of court proceedings were initiated against the director.
In September 2022, the court had decided to proceed ex-parte against Agnihotri and then he filed an affidavit expressing apology.
Agnihotri had mentioned in his affidavit that he himself had deleted his tweets against the judge.
However, Amicus Curiae, senior advocate Arvind Nigam had pointed out that it could be the social media platform which deleted the tweets and not Agnihotri himself.

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