AG Venugopal refuses nod for contempt proceedings against ex-CJI Gogoi

Responding to a request in this regard by activist Saket Gokhale, the top law officer said that the former CJI’s statements were indeed “very strong” but added that they were made “for the good of the institution” and in no manner scandalised or lowered the authority of the highest judiciary.
PUBLISHED ON FEB 28, 2021 12:51 AM IST
Justice Gogoi, during the event telecast on February 12, used the term “ramshackle” for the judiciary and added that one would be ending up only “washing dirty linen in court” by filing defamation cases.(AP file photo)

Attorney general KK Venugopal has refused to give his nod for initiating contempt proceedings against former Chief Justice of India (CJI) and now Rajya Sabha MP Ranjan Gogoi for his comments on the Supreme Court at a recent event.

Responding to a request in this regard by activist Saket Gokhale, the top law officer said that the former CJI’s statements were indeed “very strong” but added that they were made “for the good of the institution” and in no manner scandalised or lowered the authority of the highest judiciary.

Gokhale wrote to Venugopal for his approval to the contempt proceedings against justice Gogoi in the wake of the former CJI’s statements regarding the state of the Indian judiciary during a panel discussion at an India Today event.

Justice Gogoi, during the event telecast on February 12, used the term “ramshackle” for the judiciary and added that one would be ending up only “washing dirty linen in court” by filing defamation cases.

According to Gokhale, these remarks by justice Gogoi “resulted in major scandalisation of the judiciary” and brought down the esteem of the institution since they came from a former CJI.

The A-G, however, has found nothing contemptuous about justice Gogoi’s comments, saying these statements reflected the former CJI’s “deep frustration with the ills that undoubtedly beset the justice delivery system”.

Venugopal’s reply to Gokhale added: “I had the occasion to watch the entirety of the interview. It is obvious that all that has been said was good for the institution and will not any manner scandalise the court or lower its authority in the eyes of the public.”

Speaking to HT, Venugopal maintained that he had watched the entire interview of justice Gogoi and that the former CJI’s views were meant to highlight the problems the Indian judiciary was facing and what the judges had to go through

“He (justice Gogoi) was trying to point out the negative factors of the judiciary to highlight the state it is in. His statements had also sought to reflect the issues the judges are facing and the frustration arising from these problems,” the A-G explained.

Venugopal added: “There is no question of contempt in anything that justice Gogoi has said. I have gone through each and every statement and I find nothing remotely contemptuous. It would be improper to seek contempt action.”

Under the Contempt of Courts Act and the pertinent rules, the Supreme Court can initiate criminal contempt proceedings either on its own motion or upon a petition filed by a private individual after obtaining consent of the attorney general or the solicitor general.

In several rulings, the top court has held that the whole object of prescribing the procedural mode of taking cognisance was “to safeguard the valuable time of the court from being wasted by frivolous contempt petitions”.

Gokhale now has the option of writing to the present CJI and other judges of the high court, requesting them to initiate contempt proceedings as a “suo motu” (on its own motion) matter.

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