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Vivek Agnihotri appears in Delhi HC, tenders apology, gets discharged

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New Delhi: Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri appeared before the Delhi High Court on Monday and tendered an unconditional apology in connection with a criminal contempt case over his alleged remarks against a judge of the court.

Accepting his apology, a bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Vikas Mahajan discharged Agnihotri of the contempt charge and cautioned him to remain careful in the future.

The high court recalled the criminal contempt notice issued to him and noted that an affidavit filed by Agnihotri also reflected the regret and remorse unconditionally expressed by him to the court.

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“In view of the circumstances that Vivek Agnihotri stated that he has utmost respect for the institution of judiciary and did not intend to wilfully offend the majesty of this court, the notice to show cause issued to him is hereby recalled. Vivek Agnihotri stands discharged as the alleged contemnor,” the bench said.

“Mr. Agnihotri we will be cautioning you to be careful in future,” the bench told the filmmaker who appeared before the court in pursuance of its earlier direction.

In 2018, the filmmaker had put out tweets alleging bias against Justice S Muralidhar, who was then a judge of the Delhi High Court and is currently the chief justice of the Orissa High Court, as he had released rights activist Gautam Navlakha from house arrest in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case.

Subsequently, contempt of court proceedings were initiated against Agnihotri and others by the high court.

On December 6 last year, the court asked the filmmaker to “show remorse in person” after he tendered an unconditional apology through an affidavit.

“We are asking him (Agnihotri) to remain present because he is the alleged contemnor. Does he have any difficulty in appearing before this court? He has to be present and show remorse in person,” the court had said.

The lawyer appearing for another alleged contemnor, Anand Ranganathan, assured the court that he would remain present before it on May 24, the next date of hearing in the case.

During the hearing, Justice Mridul said courts do not punish for contempt to secure their dignity as the dignity of courts does not come from what people have to say about judiciary but from the duties the courts discharge.

Referring to a previous judgement of the Supreme Court in a contempt case, the bench said, “Our dignity is founded on a stronger foundation and not on what somebody says about us. There are times when you have to give quietus to things.” The high court said it had kept the matter pending only to make it clear that “you can’t make things irresponsibly”.

It noted that Agnihotri has reiterated his remorse and tendered an unconditional apology for the alleged offensive statement made on Twitter.

“Twitter is a great source of misery,” the bench orally observed.

It also said every citizen of the country must know that they should be careful and added, “we invite just and fair criticism…” Senior advocate Arvind Nigam, who is assisting the court in the matter as an amicus curiae, had earlier informed that Ranganathan has made a tweet in relation to the contempt proceedings that he would go down fighting.

The court had initiated the contempt proceedings in the present case on its own after receiving a letter from senior advocate Rajshekhar Rao. Rao, in his letter, had stated that the tweets were a deliberate attempt to attack a high court judge.

The contempt proceedings were also initiated against Swaminathan Gurumurthy, the editor of the Chennai-based weekly, “Thuglak”, for his tweets against the judge.

The proceedings against Gurumurthy were subsequently closed in October 2019.

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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( With inputs from www.siasat.com )

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