The Delhi High Court initiated suo motu contempt proceedings on Monday, October 29, against journalist, RSS ideologue and RBI director S Gurumurthy over his tweets alleging Justice S Muralidhar had a bias. He had quashed activist Gautam Navlakha’s house arrest order and transit remand in the Bhima Koregaon case. His tweet was dated October 1.
In his tweet, he had retweeted the link from a blog called ‘Drishtikone’ which had an article titled ‘Why has Delhi High Court Justice Muralidhar’s relationship with Gautam Navlakha not been disclosed?’. The article alleged that the Delhi High Court judge’s wife was a close friend of Navlakha and said Muralidhar’s reason for quashing the house arrest order was flimsy.
He had also tweeted: “If only contempt weapon is not there in some court’s hands their judgements can be torn to pieces as judgements rendered because the parties benefiting by the judgements are wife’s ideological associates or the judge’s own. Sorry state of the judiciary.
The Court took notice of the tweet and the article after Advocate Rajshekhar Rao wrote a letter to Chief Justice Rajendra Menon, alleging that the article and Gurumurthy’s retweet was a deliberate attempt to attack a sitting High Court judge.
The matter was taken up today by the Bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Yogesh Khanna, which issued notice to Gurumurthy, Drishtikone and filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri. The Court also ordered that the tweets in question, and a YouTube video making allegations against Justice Muralidhar, be taken down. Notice has also been issued to the NCT government.
The bench has issued a notice to Gurumurthy, Drishtikone as well as filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri.
Rao, in his letter to the CJI, contended that such an attempt by Gurumurthy amounted to "scandalising the judiciary and obstruct the judicial process" according to a report in News18.
Navlakha was arrested by Pune Police along with four other activists on August 28, alleging that an event they had held - Elgar Parishad - had caused violence Koregaon Bhima in the state. Pune police had got a transit remand from a local court, but it was stayed by a two-judge Delhi HC bench on the grounds that it was “unsustainable in law”.
This is not the first that Gurumurthy has been called out over his remarks against Justice Muralidhar. He has leveled allegations against Justice Muralidhar in the past as well.
Gurumurthy who is the editor of the magazine, ‘Thuglak’, a Tamil political weekly. In March 2018, the High Court was made aware of his tweets, regarding the decision to grant interim relief to former Union Minister P Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram in the INX media case. He had also asked in his tweets if Justice Muralidhar had been a junior to Karti Chidambaram’s father and Senior Advocate P Chidambaram. He later withdrew the tweet.
Justice Muralidhar had earlier this year observed that misinformation on social media "spreads like wildfire and considered it necessary to place on record the correct facts".
The court also said that, "being the editor of a magazine that has a wide readership in Tamil Nadu, had Mr S Gurumurthy cared to check, he could easily have ascertained that the presiding Judge of this Bench was as a junior of Mr G Ramaswamy, who then was the Additional Solicitor General of India and who later was the Attorney General for India.”
“At no time did the presiding Judge work as a junior to Mr P Chidambaram, Senior Advocate, the father of the Petitioner," he added.
The court did not initiate contempt proceedings against Gurumurthy at that time and asked the Centre if any action could be taken to protect the judiciary from such “scandalous posts”.
In April, the Court issued notice in a contempt petition filed against Gurumurthy by the Delhi High Court Bar Association (DHCBA).
A contempt notice was also sent to Vivek Agnihotri over his tweets that stated that Gautam Navlakha was given leniency over the fact that Navlakha was a friend of the judge’s wife.
His tweet elicited a response from many people who in response also attacked Justice Muralidhar and alleged that what he did was “a gross misuse of the immunity the judiciary enjoys”.