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Vivek Agnihotri gets relief from Delhi HC in 2018 contempt case after he appears in person, Anand Ranganathan agrees to appear in next hearing

Last year, on December 6 2022, the court asked the filmmaker to "show remorse in person" after he tendered an unconditional apology through an affidavit.

On Monday, April 10, Delhi High Court discharged filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri in a 2018 Contempt-of-Court case. The decision came after Agnihotri appeared in person and tendered an unconditional apology and reiterated his remorse over his remark made condemning S Justice S Muralidhar for granting bail to Urban Naxal Gautam Navlakha.

Notably, on December 6 2022, the court asked the filmmaker to “show remorse in person” after he tendered an unconditional apology through an affidavit.

During the hearing on Monday, Vivek Agnihotri appeared physically before a division bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Vikas Mahajan to tender his ‘unconditional apology and remorse.’

“Vivek Agnihotri, the alleged contemnor is present in the court in person and reiterates his remorse. He also tenders an unconditional apology for the allegedly offensive statement on Twitter,” read the order discharging the filmmaker.

“The affidavit also reflects the remorse expressed by him. For the sake of completeness, the relevant are extracted. In view of the foregoing and in the circumstances that Mr Agnihhotri states that he has the utmost respect for the judiciary and he did not intend to wilfully offend the sensibilities of the court; the notice show cause issued as to why contempt should not be initiated against his is hereby recalled. He accordingly stand discharged,” Justice Siddharth Mridul as the bench accepted Agnihotri’s apology and cautioned him to remain careful in the future.

Meanwhile, scientist and political commentator Anand Ranganathan, who was also made a party in the contempt case against Gurumurthy and Vivek Agnihotri, agreed to appear in person before the bench during the next hearing which has been fixed for May 24.

Taking to Twitter, Ranganathan wrote, “In the matter of criminal contempt against me, the hon’ble judge today ordered that I appear personally before the bench on the date of the next hearing, May 24, 2023. I will do so. Grateful to @jsaideepak for representing me in court. Thank you, Sai.”

The tweet came after the court told Advocate J Sai Deepak, appearing for Anand Ranganathan, to make sure the latter physically appeared before the court in the next hearing. The remark came after J Sai Deepak stated before the court that Ranganathan was not directed to appear before the court in person and that he had moved an application because he had already been proceeded ex-parte, so the application was to recall.

Notably, a day after Vivek Agnihotri tendered a written apology in the Delhi High Court on December 6, 2022, Anand Ranganathan had refused to apologise for supporting remarks made by filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri and S Gurumurthy condemning Justice S Muralidhar.

Last year, in May, the Delhi High Court sent fresh notices to filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, scientist and political commentator Anand Ranganathan and Swarajya Magazine in a 2018 Contempt-of-Court case. 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 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 Koregaon case. Gurumurthy 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, allegedly condemned this action by the High Court in a couple of Tweets. 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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