Attorney General K.K. Venugopal has recused himself from granting consent to initiate contempt of court proceedings against former Supreme Court judge, Justice Markandey Katju.
Venugopal asked the petitioner, Supreme Court lawyer Alakh Alok Srivastava, to place the request before Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, as per the Contempt of Courts Act.
“I am bringing to your notice explanation (a) to Section 15 (3) which empowers either the Attorney General or the Solicitor General of India to grant consent for initiating criminal proceedings, if deemed fit. If so advised, you may file your application for consent before the Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta,” he said in a letter to Srivastava.
The AG noted that he had known Justice Katju for about 16 years, therefore it would not be appropriate for him to deal with the matter. “I have to point that I have known Justice Katju for the last about 16 years and we have been interacting with each other ever since. In this background, it is not appropriate that I deal with the matter,” he held.
Srivastava had written a letter to Venugopal on March 1, alleging Justice Katju had made “extremely contemptuous” remarks against the Indian judiciary in the Nirav Modi extradition case, and also cited observation made by the UK court against him in the matter.
On February 25, giving the go ahead for Modi’s extradition to India, the District Judge at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Sam Gooze, had said that Justice Katju’s testimony “was not reliable” and had “hallmarks of an outspoken critic with his own personal agenda”.
According to Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act and Rule 3 of Rules to Regulate Proceedings for Contempt of Supreme Court, the consent of the AG or SG is mandatory before the top court begins proceedings in a criminal contempt petition filed by a private individual.