Delhi High Court discharges Vivek Agnihotri in 2018 Contempt Case

Read Time: 09 minutes


Noting that Indian Film Director Vivek Agnihotri had tendered an ‘unconditional apology and remorse’, the Court ‘discharged’ him in a suo-motu criminal contempt case.

Noting that Indian Film Director Vivek Agnihotri has tendered an ‘unconditional apology and remorse’ the Delhi High Court on Monday ‘discharged’ him in the suo-motu criminal contempt case initiated against him in connection with relief provided by Justice S. Muralidhar to UAPA-accused Gautam Navlakha.

During the hearing, Vivek Agnihotri appeared physically before a division bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Vikas Mahajan to tender his ‘unconditional apology and remorse.’

“Vivek Agnihotri the alleged contemnor, in the present suo-moto criminal contempt, is present before this court in person, and reiterates his remorse, as well as tenders an unconditional apology for the allegedly offensive statement made by him on Twitter”, the court said in its order.

The court noted that perusal of the affidavit dated October 21, 2022, reflected the regret and remorse unconditionally expressed by Agnihotri before the High Court. “In view of the foregoing & particularly the circumstance, Vivek Agnihotri states that he has the utmost respect for the Judiciary and did not intend to willfully offend the sensibility of the Court. The notice to show cause issued to him in the contempt plea is reconciled. Mr. Vivek Agnihotri is accordingly Discharged as an alleged Contemnor”, the court ordered.

Justice Mridul, in a lighter vein, remarked orally, “Twitter has become a source of great misery”.

The court stated, “What is relevant is that every citizen of the country should know that you must be careful. We invite just & fair criticism, that's how we function. When it comes to lawyers, we keep our critiques closer. Right, but the fact is sometimes every proceeding runs its course”. 

Referring to former Justice Ranjan Gogoi’s decision in a contempt case, Justice Mridul quoted, “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 duties that we discharge.”

“So we don't need others to uphold our dignity. So we don't look after....the classic case is that somebody commented on the House of Lords, that they are "Old Idiots", to which Lord... famously said, if so far as the first expression is concerned I cannot deny that I am old, in so far as the expression "Fool" is concerned, I disagree with you. But it does not amount to contempt. Surely our dignity is founded on stronger...our dignity is not that somebody said something”, Justice Mridul remarked.

Advocate J Sai Deepak appeared for Anand Ranganathan (another contemnor) in the case. He stated that Ranganathan was not directed to appear before the court in person and that he had moved an application because he had already been proceeded ex-parte, so the application was to recall.

To, this the court remarked, “What is the difficulty in appearing before the court? This is the least you can do.”

The counsel assured the bench that Ranganathan will be present before the court on the next date of the hearing.

Accordingly, the court listed the matter for further consideration on May 24.

Notably, last month, the bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Talwant Singh directed Agnihotri to be present in person before the Court for tendering the ‘unconditional apology’. Justice Mridul had remarked, "This tweet has become a pandemic, it's just not ending". 

The matter pertains to the tweets allegedly made in support of an article written by S Gurumurthy against the judgment setting aside the transit remand order against Bhima Koregaon Violence accused Gautam Navlakha in 2018.

It is to be noted that on October 29, 2018, the high court issued criminal contempt notice against Gurumurthy and others for tweeting the article alleging that Justice S Muralidhar was biased in passing the order releasing Gautam Navlakha from house arrest.

The bench had issued the notice after receiving a letter from Senior Advocate Rajshekhar Rao alleging contempt. The article tweeted by Gurumurthy was titled, "Why has Delhi High Court Justice Muralidhar's relationship with Gautam Navlakha not been disclosed?"

However, on October 14, 2019, the Delhi High Court removed Gurumurthy from the list of respondents in contempt matter after he issued an apology.

In September 2022, the high court proceeded against Dr. Anand Ranganathan, Vivek Agnihotri, and Swarajya magazine ex-parte after nobody appeared for them in the matter. 

Case Title: Court in its Own Motion Vs S. Gurumurthy