The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday (September 8, 2020) has sought an explanation from petitioner A.V. Amarnathan as to on what authority he sent an email to Discovery channel threatening it that airing any program on the 'Cauvery Calling' project would amount to contempt of Court.
A division bench comprising of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Ashok S Kinagi while issuing the directions said that, "The petitioner claims to be a pro bono litigant. Making such representation to a television channel may raise a question whether the petitioner is really a pro bono litigant. The petitioner cannot threaten a television channel with contempt on the ground that if they telecast a program on the respondents, it will amount to contempt."
The direction was issued after a complaint was filed before the court by the ISHA Outreach, which manages the “Cauvery Calling”. The complaint said that the petitioner on August 21 sent an email to Discovery channel warning that telecasting the documentary, scheduled to be aired on August 22 at 6.30 p.m., would amount to contempt of court as the legality of the project is sub judice.
On the last hearing, the court asked the petitioner whether he has sent a legal notice to the channel or not, following which an affidavit in reply was filed by the petitioner.
The Court today, after perusing the affidavit, said that "In the affidavit dated 5th September 2020 and in paragraph No.7, the petitioner has justified the action of informing the discovery channel that airing the program will amount to contempt. The petitioner appearing in person owes an explanation to the Court for this conduct."
A.V. Amarnathan, a city-based advocate filed a PIL before the High Court seeking directions to ISHA foundation to not collect funds from the public for the “Cauvery Calling” project. As per the petition, the foundation has a target of planting 253 crore saplings on the Cauvery basin, however, the same will be done by collecting a donation of Rs. 42 per sapling from the public donor. The petition states that the “collection of money from the public is disturbing” since the expected amount of donation is around Rs. 10K crore.
"Foundation claims that it has conducted studies regarding the Cauvery Basin. But it ought to have submitted the said report to the State. And the state after deliberating the said studies should have given approval. But no such process is carried out. The petitioner submits that no private organization can be permitted to carry out any work, on the Government land, without there being a proper approval from the state", the plea states.
Earlier this year, the Court had asked Isha Foundation to disclose the amount it has collected for the 'Cauvery Calling Project. It was later informed to the Court that the project was being dealt with by ISHA Outreach under the ISHA Foundation.
The Hon’ble High Court has directed the petitioner to file an affidavit stating whether he wants to justify the threat given to the television channel, within one week. The matter has been posted for the next hearing on September 24.