Rachita Taneja, cartoonist and creator of the webcomic Sanitary Panels, will face contempt of court charges after Attorney General KK Venugopal gave his consent on Tuesday to initiate proceedings against her. The complaint against her was filed by a law student, Aditya Kashyap.
The Attorney General said, “I am satisfied that each of the tweets with cartoons attached is in contempt of the Supreme Court of India, hence I grant my consent.” Further, that Taneja’s cartoons portray that the “Supreme Court of India was biased towards the ruling party” and thus are an “audacious assault and insult to the institution.”
Taneja is a cartoonist and an independent freelance artist who tweets about social issues through stick-figure cartoons. Her webcomic Sanitary Panels calls itself “a feminist webcomic that comments on politics, society, and culture.” Taneja on her webcomic says, “I draw to question those in power, start conversations, and support activists.”
On November 12, a day after Arnab Goswami was granted bail by the apex court, Sanitary Panels tweeted a cartoon of three stick-figures. One represented the Supreme Court of India, another represented the ruling party of the country, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the third represented Republic TV anchor Arnab Goswami. The image was captioned, “Tu Jaanta Nahi Mera Baap Kaun Hain” (You don’t know who my father is).
On November 11, the same day that Goswami was granted bail, Taneja had tweeted a cartoon that depicted the apex court with a saffron flag and called it the “Sanghi Court of India” with the caption “Arnab gets bail, real journalists get jail, independent judiciary is fail.”
The Supreme Court in its letter stated that if the first cartoon was “to be believed, one would have to proceed on the basis that the BJP is somehow interested in protecting Arnab Goswami and has prevailed upon the Supreme Court to do so.”
The Supreme Court said that the second tweet was a “gross insinuation” against the apex court being impartial and added that “[the] tweet is clearly calculated to undermine the public confidence in the independence and impartiality of the Supreme Court of India.”
Recently on November 12, Venugopal had given consent to initiate proceedings against comedian Kunal Kamra based on a tweet of a similar nature.
Taneja and Kamra are among several people across the country who have come out to criticise and question the apex court’s decision of granting Arnab Goswami interim bail within a week of his arrest even as the bail pleas of several journalists who have been imprisoned for months and years have been denied multiple times.
Arnab Goswami was arrested on November 4 from his residence and remanded to 14-days judicial custody in the 2018 abetment of suicide case involving interior designer Anvay Naik. On November 5, Goswami filed a petition in the Bombay High Court, challenging his “illegal arrest” by the Maharashtra Police. Denying interim relief to the journalist, the high court asked him to move the sessions court for bail, following which the Supreme Court granted him interim bail within a week of his arrest. The Supreme Court, on 27 November, had issued 55-page reasoning on what grounds was Goswami granted interim bail while criticising the Bombay High Court.
In the wake of the contempt of court charges, several social media users expressed support for Taneja, including actor Sushant Singh, cartoonist Satish Acharya, journalists Adrija Bose and Vishakha, among others (like art.of.resistance and meancurry). Taneja posted another cartoon to show her appreciation for the support.