Global journalists’ body condemns contempt plea against cartoonist Rachita Taneja

The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed alarm over a petition to the Indian Supreme Court calling for it to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against political cartoonist Rachita Taneja for her comics about the judiciary.

On 5 December, Aditya Kashyap, a law student and member of the ABVP student union associated with the RSS, filed a petition with the Supreme Court alleging that Taneja’s comics have “threatened the very existence of the Supreme Court.

“India purportedly values freedom of speech, but contempt proceedings against Rachita Taneja for her cartoons would instead show intolerance for any form of criticism in the country,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher.

“If these contempt proceedings move forward, it will send a chilling message to the media,” she said in an official note.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is an American independent non-profit, non-governmental organization, based in New York City, New York with correspondents around the world. 

Kashyap’s complaint cites three of Taneja’s illustrations, one of which depicted Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a transaction with former chief justice Rajan Gogoi, and the other two of which commented on legal proceedings against right wing journalist Arnab Goswami.

Kashyap filed his petition after attorney general K.K. Venogupal formally admitted it on 1 December on the basis of the ABVP member’s initial complaint that Taneja’s art dishonored India’s highest court.

In his official letter to Kashyap admitting the petition, Venugopal said that Taneja’s illustrations imply that the “Supreme Court of India is biased towards the ruling political party.”

The court has not yet set a date for a hearing to determine whether it will admit the petition.