Tamil Nadu Advocate General to hear on February 16 petitions seeking sanction for criminal contempt proceedings against Thuglak editor Gurumurthy
The fate of criminal contempt against chartered accountant S. Gurumurthy for his comments against judges at the annual function of Thuglak, the Tamil Magazine that he assumed editorship of after the demise of Cho. S. Ramaswamy, is expected to be pronounced after a consent hearing by the Tamil Nadu Advocate General on February 16.
On January 14, speaking at the function, Gurumurthy said: “All the judges in the courts, and the Supreme Court, have been appointed by politicians. Many [such people] fall at the feet of someone powerful through intermediaries to become judges. This is something that we have to be ashamed of today. If judges were appointed on merit there would not be a situation of this nature.” He later expressed regret. He tweeted: “Responding to a reader in open forum at Thuglak magazine annual meeting held on 14.1.21 on delay in punishing the corrupt, talking about politicisation of judiciary, in spur of moment, for ‘applicants for judges’ I erroneously said ‘judges’ which I regret.”
Following receipt of complaints from two persons about the speech, the Tamil Nadu Advocate General numbered the two consent petitions on January 19, 2021. “The Advocate General on 19.01.2021 has ordered notice to the respondent [Gurumurthy], and posted the case to 16.02.2021 at 4 pm for admission,” the notice read. A few other advocates had preferred complaints in a local police station in Tirunelveli district. The police had recorded this as a non-cognisable complaint.
Earlier, on January 18, the Advocate General sanctioned his consent for initiating criminal contempt against R.S. Bharathi, Member of Parliament, in a similar case. (A consent petition is one where the petitioner seeks the consent of the Advocate General ahead of filing for criminal contempt. The A.G. hears both sides before arriving at his decision.)
In the order relating to Bharathi, who had made a statement against judges, the A.G. said: “The core question that falls for consideration is whether the statement of the respondent would scandalize or tend to scandalize or lower or tend to lower the authority of any court. It is for the court to consider this…. Having regard to the fact that the speech was actually made, as shown by the video recording as well as the Honourable High Court referred to above [Prashant Bhushan, 2020 SCC Online SC 646], I am of the view that the mentioning of the wrong date loses significance. Prima Facie, the words uttered by the respondent scandalize or tend to scandalize the court and, therefore, I find that this is not a case where the petition is either frivolous, vexatious or motivated.”