The Indian Supreme Court has validated a complaint filed by a third party against a designer based in New Delhi who published a series of satirical cartoons on the judiciary. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the judges to drop the absurd charges against her.
“Contempt of court” for simple drawings … On December 18, the Supreme Court decided to follow up on a complaint filed against Rachita Taneja , due to the publication of three cartoons on the Twitter page @Sanitary Panels , where she has been commenting on her country’s news for six years.
The complaint was originally lodged by one Aditya Kashyap, a member of the student wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He accused the designer of wanting to “ shake public confidence in the judicial system by direct attacks or innuendos against the honorable Indian Supreme Court ”. The court must examine the defense of the designer on January 29. If found guilty, Rachita Taneja faces up to 6 months in prison.
”We call on the Supreme Court justices to drop the absurd charges they are leveling against Rachita Taneja, who has only exercised his right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by article 19 of the 1950 Constitution , says Daniel Bastard, head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific office. It is extremely shocking to see the highest instance of the Indian judiciary stoop to harassing a cartoonist on the pretext of a pseudo ‘contempt of court’, when these are only drawings, admittedly satirical, but perfectly harmless. ”
The three drawings in question, published respectively on August 7, November 11 and 12, are indeed very trivial. The first pastiche is an exchange of favors between a magistrate and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The second represents the Supreme Court building topped with the flag of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Hindu nationalist militia of which the BJP is the political emanation. The last refers to the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Republic TV host journalist Arnab Goswami, close to the ruling party and subject to legal proceedings for incitement to suicide.
The motive of “contempt of court” is more and more often invoked to silence journalists and commentators who speak of the judiciary. Last December, lawsuits were also launched against political commentator and comedian Kunal Kamra, over a series of satirical tweets about the Supreme Court.
In March 2019, RSF revealed that the editor of Shillong Times , Patricia Mukhim and its publishing director, Shobha Chaudhuri , had each been fined 200,000 rupees (2,600 euros) following an investigation that the newspaper had published on the comfortable retirement awarded by a judge of the high court of Meghalaya, the state of northeast India where they are based.
India occupies 142nd place out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index established by RSF in 2020.
Copyright ©2016, Reporters Without Borders. Used with the permission of Reporters Without Borders(RSF), CS 90247 75083 Paris Cedex 02 https://rsf.org
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