Photo does not show Indian Supreme Court judges 'lunching with journalists and politicians'

·3 min read

After India's top court slammed a ruling party spokeswoman for making incendiary comments about Islam, a photo was shared thousands of times in Facebook posts that claim it shows two judges from the court dining with journalists and communist party politicians. The posts suggest the photo is evidence of corruption in India's judiciary. However, the photo shows a group of Indian journalists with communist party politicians, not the court's judges.

The photo was shared on Facebook on July 6.

"See... with whom the so called Supreme court judges who passed verdict and made inflammatory comments are having lunch with," reads the post's English-language caption.

"The 2 SC judges, #SuryaKant and #Pardiwala with the naxal gang. Pranab Roy [sic] is there. Then there is Radhika Roy, Brinda Karat and some others."

Surya Kant and J B Pardiwala are judges in India's Supreme Court, which criticised former ruling party spokeswoman Nupur Sharma for her remarks about the Prophet Mohammed that embroiled India in a diplomatic row and sparked huge protests.

During a procedural hearing on several criminal complaints filed against Sharma, the top court said she should apologise for having "set the country on fire".

"Naxal" is a term broadly used to refer to the communist insurgency in India.

Spouses Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy are journalists who co-chair the Indian broadcaster NDTV.

Brinda Karat is a politician from India's Communist Party who was elected to represent West Bengal in the upper house of parliament in 2005.

Screenshot of the Facebook post captured July 12, 2022

The image was shared alongside a similar claim on Facebook here, here and here in a group with more than 300,000 members; and on Twitter here.

However, neither of the two senior judges named in the posts are shown in the photo.

Misidentified diners

The same photo was posted on July 3 here on the Twitter account of the MindEscapes hotel in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

"A Chef's Table session with Finance Minister - Tamil Nadu, Mr P. Thiagarajan, Dr Prannoy Roy and Mrs Radhika Roy, Mrs Brinda Karat and Mr Prakash Karat, Mrs and Mr N. Ram and Dipali Sikand," the tweet reads.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image in one of the posts (left) and the image uploaded on MindEscape's Twitter account (right):

Through multiple Google searches, AFP identified the attendees mentioned in the tweet by cross-checking photos in their social media accounts or in news reports.

The people in the photo from left to right are: journalist Mariam Ram; Prannoy Roy; Brinda Karat; Radhika Roy; MindEscapes founder Dipali Sikand; Indian communist politician Prakash Karat; Tamil Nadu finance minister P Thiaga Rajan; and journalist N. Ram.

Judges Surya Kant and J B Pardiwala -- whose photos were published here -- are not in the photo.

Responding to the false posts, journalist N. Ram told AFP: "I confirm that neither Justice Surya Kant nor Justice JB Pardiwala of the Supreme Court of India are in this photograph."

He said the photo was taken on July 1 at the MindEscapes restaurant.

He also refuted the claim about the photo here on Twitter on July 5.

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