Published: 02nd December 2020
I have nothing against her, but her cartoons hurt me: Meet the law student who complained against cartoonist Rachita Taneja
Aditya Kashyap is a fifth-year BA LLB student at Punjab's Rajiv Gandhi National Law University. He is also part of ABVP's ThinkIndia
How thin is the line between criticism and contempt of court, we ask Aditya Kashyap. He is a fifth year BA LLB student at Punjab's Rajiv Gandhi National Law University. Coincidentally, an hour prior to our conversation, he had appeared for an exam on Judicial review, where a similar question was asked, he tells us.
The 22-year-old law student had recently made it to the news because his complaint had led to the Attorney General's consent to initiate criminal proceedings for contempt of court against artist Rachita Taneja, the founder of the Instagram handle Sanitary Panels. A recent illustration by Taneja was critical of the court's decision to allow bail to journalist Arnab Goswami. In the image, the National Flag on the court's dome is replaced with a saffron flag, calling it the 'Sanghi Court of India'. The AG, KK Venugopal, had allowed consent noting that the illustration "scandalises the Hon'ble Supreme Court, insinuates and attributes motives behind judgments of the Court."
Arnab gets bail, real journalists get jail, independent judiciary is fail. pic.twitter.com/GQbzyeHYGk— Sanitary Panels (@sanitarypanels) November 11, 2020
"If you analyse the section 2C of the Contempt of Court Act, you will see that it has a very broad provision. The power of criminal contempt has to be sparingly used. Criticism is necessary for society's progress. At times, legal change must ascertain the social change," says Aditya. At the same time, he says that there are places where a line must be drawn. "The problem starts when an influencer with a sizeable number of followers (Rachita has more than 79,500 followers on Instagram and 18,300 followers on Twitter) insinuates something of this sort. For instance, in one of her posts, she shows the Prime Minister shaking hands with former judge Ranjan Gogoi saying 'It was good doing business with you'. Equating delivering justice with business, crosses a line. I was hurt by this and as a law student, I thought I must do something," he says.
Aditya adds that he doesn't hold a personal grudge against Taneja. He, in fact, coldly appreciates Taneja's art where she advocates for gender equality. "She has every right to criticise the judiciary and the government, but she must not cross a line," he says. "She has the capability to influence a lot of young people and she has to be accountable," he says, before he quotes the Peter Parker principle — With great power comes great responsibility. He also notes that another student has sought similar consent to initiate criminal proceedings against comedian Kunal Kamra for some of his tweets.
Let’s not forget how we got here pic.twitter.com/MImsGoNv6n— Sanitary Panels (@sanitarypanels) August 7, 2020
At the same time, Aditya, who is also the National Co-convenor of the ABVP's ThinkIndia says that he also wants the SC to issue guidelines on what qualifies as contempt of court. He also says that his ideology has never played a part in this issue. "I have had eminent lawyers, jurists and professors teach law to me. I was also educated in a Gurukul before that. All of it has fostered my respect for the court. The ideology had no role to play here," he says.
Post this incident, Aditya says that he has been receiving both praise and criticism online and offline. However, he isn't hurt by the latter. "They have the right to criticise me. Let them exercise their rights," he says.