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Delhi HC proceeds ex-parte against Vivek Agnihotri, Anand Ranganathan, and Swarajya magazine in a 2018 contempt of court case

In May 2022, Delhi High Court issued fresh notices to Vivek Agnihotri, Anand Ranganathan and Swarajya magazine in a 2018 contempt of court case filed for their critical comments on Justice S Muralidhar for granting bail to Urban Naxal Gautam Navlakha in the Bhima Koregaon violence case.

The Delhi High Court Monday decided to proceed ex-parte against filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, scientist and political commentator Anand Ranganathan, Swarajya Magazine and others in a 2018 Contempt-of-Court case. The contempt of court case was filed for comments criticising Justice S Muralidhar for granting bail to Urban Naxal Gautam Navlakha in the Bhima Koregaon violence case.

The Division Bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Amit Sharma made the decision, noting that despite the issuance of fresh court notice in May, no one, on their behalf, appeared during the court hearing scheduled today.

“None appears on behalf of remaining respondents despite service of notice. The said respondents accordingly proceed ex-parte,” the Court ordered today.

The case will now be heard on March 16.

Earlier on May 4, the Court had also noted that no one had attended on behalf of the trio in the previous hearings. The Bench then stated that deferring adverse orders is in the best interests of justice.

In October 2018, the Delhi High Court initiated contempt proceedings against Economist S Gurumurthy over his article on Justice S Muralidhar, where he had questioned S Muralidhar’s credibility as the High Court judge in connection with granting bail to Gautam Navlakha, one of the accused in the Koregaon Bhima violence case. Agnihotri and Ranganathan, who had tweeted about the issue on similar lines, were slapped with the charges of contempt later.

It all started when Senior Advocate Rajshekhar Rao wrote a letter to then Chief Justice Rajendra Menon, about an article written by S Gurumurthy alleging bias on the part of Justice Muralidhar for granting bail to Urban Naxal Gautam Navlakha in the Bhima Koregoan case. Gurumurthy had penned the article “Why has Delhi High Court Justice Muralidhar’s relationship with Gautam Navlakha not been disclosed?” on Desh Kapur’s blog ‘Dhristikone’. The article was retweeted by Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri in a tweet, following which a contempt of court notice was sent to him as well.

It all started when Senior Advocate Rajshekhar Rao wrote a letter to then Chief Justice Rajendra Menon, about an article written by S Gurumurthy alleging bias on the part of Justice Muralidhar for granting bail to Urban Naxal Gautam Navlakha in the Bhima Koregoan case. Gurumurthy had penned the article “Why has Delhi High Court Justice Muralidhar’s relationship with Gautam Navlakha not been disclosed?” on Desh Kapur’s blog ‘Dhristikone’. The article was retweeted by Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri in a tweet, following which a contempt of court notice was sent to him as well.

Anand Ranganathan, who is a free speech absolutist, condemned this action by the High Court in a couple of tweets. It turned out that certain tweets of his were withheld in India with the message “This tweet from @ARanganathan72 has been withheld in India in response to a legal demand.” The two tweets were withheld evidently in response to legal demand which was criticising the contempt of court notices that were earlier served to S Gurumurthy and Vivek Agnihotri. It was later known that the same charges had been levied against Dr Ranganathan as well.

However, Gurumurthy was dropped as a respondent in the matter after he offered to retweet an unconditional apology tendered by the blog host Kapoor on his Twitter handle.

Nevertheless, the proceedings against Agnihotri, Ranganathan and several others continued in the case.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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