New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday said that it is not peevish about being “called names” and is open for just and fair criticism, but will not tolerate something obstructing the functioning of the court or the judicial system.
A division bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Anish Dayal was hearing a suo motu criminal contempt case initiated against few contemnors.
The case pertains to when, in 2018, tweets were posted against Justice S. Muralidhar in respect of the judge’s order quashing the order of house arrest and transit remand of activist Gautam Navlakha in the Bhima Koregaon case.
“We welcome just and fair criticism.….what cannot be appreciated is something that we cannot say lowers the majesty of court but obstructs functioning of the court, the system. That we will not tolerate,” the bench said.
“We are not peevish about being called names but we are very concerned when system is obstructed.”
Advocate J Sai Deepak appearing for one of the alleged contemners, author Anand Ranganathan, apprised the court that he has filed an affidavit clarifying his position that his statement was a not a comment on the specific facts of the case but was general in nature. He further submitted before court that tendering an unconditional apology in the case would amount to accepting the allegations in the contempt proceedings.
After hearing the matter, the bench listed it for hearing next on November 9.
Last time, Ranganathan had told the court that he is a “free speech absolutist” and that he did not comment or post any tweet on Justice Muralidhar, then the Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court.
Deepak had said that the tweet was not with respect to the issue in question and that an affidavit will be filed making the position clear. Ranganathan, who appeared in person, had said: “I am a free speech absolutist. I am honoured to be here. I didn’t comment on what the judge said.”
To which, the court had orally said: “So long as whatever you said is not scandalous, you are free to say anything.
“We are all for free speech. There are occasions when after we have said something, we regret saying that.”
Earlier, filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri had tendered an in-person apology before the high court for his tweets.