New Delhi, Mar 30 (ILNS) Attorney General for India (AG) KK Venugopal today recused himself from considering the request to grant permission to initiate contempt of court proceedings against former Supreme Court judge, Justice Markandey Katju.
Mr Venugopal said that he has known Justice Katju for the last 16 years and have been interacting with him ever since and hence, it would not be appropriate for him to deal with the matter.
He, therefore, asked the petitioner, Supreme Court lawyer Alakh Alok Srivastava, to place the request before Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, as per the Contempt of Courts Act.
As per Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act and Rule 3 of Rules to Regulate Proceedings for Contempt of Supreme Court, the consent of Attorney General or Solicitor General is required before the apex court can hear a criminal contempt petition filed by a private individual.
Advocate Srivastava had written a letter to Mr Venugopal on March 1, 2021, in which he alleged that Justice Katju had made ‘extremely contemptuous’ remarks against Indian judiciary in the Nirav Modi extradition case.
He cited the observations made by the UK court against Justice Katju in connection with the case.
The retired judge had deposed as a witness before the UK court for absconding diamontaire Nirav Modi in the multi-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam in September, 2020. Justice Katju had testified that the fugitive jeweller ‘would not receive a fair trial in India,’ since the Indian judiciary is not independent.
On February 25, while clearing Modi’s extradition to India, the District Judge at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Sam Gooze, observed that Justice Katju’s testimony ‘was not reliable’ and had ‘hallmarks of an outspoken critic with his own personal agenda.’
Advocate Srivastava, in his letter to the AG, stated that the UK court’s judgement categorically noted that the day before the ‘contemptuous’ remark, Justice Katju also gave an ‘elaborate’ press commentary about it to the media.
This, as per Mr Srivastava, amounted to ‘deliberately and willfully scandalising’ the Supreme Court and lowering its authority, not just in front of the UK court, but also in front of the public at large.
He, therefore, sought AG’s consent to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against Justice Katju.
The AG, while refusing to deal with the request due to his acquaintance with JusticeKatju, said that as per Explanation (a) of Section 15(3) of Contempt of Courts Act, the Solicitor General of India is also empowered to grant such consent.
“If so advised, you may file your application for consent before Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta,” the AG said in his response. ILNS/SNG/RJ