Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri appeared before the Delhi High Court on Monday and tendered an unconditional apology for his remarks against a judge.
In October 2018, a division bench led by Justice S Muralidhar, who was a Delhi high court judge then, freed activist Gautam Navlakha, who was arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case, from house arrest. On October 5, 2018, Vivek Agnihotri reposted the tweet alleging bias by Justice Muralidhar, who is the current Chief Justice of the Orissa High 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.
“In view of the circumstances that Vivek Agnihotri stated that he has the utmost respect for the institution of the 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.
Agnihotri appeared before the court in pursuance of its earlier direction. In 2018, the filmmaker 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 was 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. 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.
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. Rao, in his letter, had stated that the tweets were a deliberate attempt to attack a high court judge. Earlier, the court had directed two social media platforms to block the weblinks to an offending article levelling scandalous allegations against the judge.