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‘I am a free speech absolutist’: Author Anand Ranganathan in contempt case

New Delhi: In a suo motu criminal contempt case, author Anand Ranganathan on Wednesday told the Delhi High Court that he is a “free speech absolutist” and that he did not comment or post any tweet on Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court, S. Muralidhar.

The case pertains to when, in 2018, Ranganathan allegedly tweeted against Justice Muralidhar in respect of the judge’s order quashing the order of house arrest and transit remand of activist Gautam Navlakha in the Bhima Koregaon case. As a result, contempt of court proceedings were initiated against him.

Before a division bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Talwant Singh, the author’s counsel advocate J. Sai Deepak said that the tweet was not with respect to the issue in question and that an affidavit will be filed to make the position clear.

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Ranganathan, who appeared in person, said: “I am a free speech absolutist. I am honoured to be here. I didn’t comment on what the judge said.”

To which, Justice Mridul orally said: “So long as whatever you said is not scandalous, you are free to say anything.

“We are all for free speech. There are occasions when after we have said something, we regret saying that.”

The court posted the matter for hearing next on October 11 and granted four weeks to Ranganathan to file a response.

Earlier, filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri had tendered an in-person apology before the high court for his tweets.

A division bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Vikas Mahajan subsequently recalled the show-cause notice for initiating proceedings of criminal contempt against Agnihotri and also discharged him as the alleged contempt.

“He states that he has the utmost respect for the institution of the judiciary and didn’t intend to willfully offend the majesty of the court,” the court had said.

Twitter has become a source of great misery, it added.

Discharging Agnihotri, the bench had said the dignity of courts does not come from what people have to say about the judiciary but from the duties of the court’s discharge.

The court had, however, cautioned Agnihotri to remain careful in the future.

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