The Supreme Court on Friday made strong and caustic observations against former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma for making blasphemous comment against Prophet Mohammad. The vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and J B Pardiwala refused to entertain Nupur Sharma’s plea to club all FIRs lodged against her in the country and told her counsel Maninder Singh, “It is for you to decide whether you want to withdraw and go before the High Courts concerned...It is a fit case for declining relief. Our conscience is not satisfied.” The counsel withdrew his petition.
On Nupur Sharma’s plea that it would not be safe for her to travel to different states, the vacation bench remarked: “She faces a security threat or she has become a threat to the security of the nation? And what has the Delhi Police done? Please don’t compel us to open our mouths. When she makes a complaint, the person is arrested, but, even when there is an FIR against her, she is not touched. Nobody dares to touch you. That is the clout you enjoy.”
On Nupur Sharma’s blasphemous remark against Prophet Mohammad, the bench remarked: “ The way she has ignited the whole country , still she has the cheek and courage to come to this court to ask for relief, instead of approaching the respective high courts and trial courts. This lady is single-handedly responsible for setting fire across the country.”
When Nupur Sharma’s counsel said she had already withdrawn her blasphemous remark and has tendered her apology, Justices Surya Kant and J.B. Pardiwala said: “It was too late in the day to withdraw, but that withdrawal is also conditional...These are the people who have no respect for any religion. A person who is religious will have respect for other religions also. It is all to gain cheap popularity and just to advance some political or nefarious agenda that such statements are made.”
The bench said: “The petitioner also shows her obstinate character and her arrogance that the courts are too small fr her to go and appear.....The lady makes completely loose-tongued comments..all irresponsible statements, and now (before this court) she claims to be a lawyer with ten years’ standing.”
The bench pointed out, her case was completely different from the Supreme court ruling in Arnab Goswami case of 2020, when different FIRs were clubbed together. It remarked: “That was a case of a journalist where his right to express opinion on an issue legitimately was taken into consideration. That is on a different pedestal compared to a citizen or spokesperson, who goes to a channel and starts lambasting the others, makes irresponsible statements without even thinking of the ramifications and how seriously it would disturb the fabric of the society....If you are a spokesperson, it is not a licence to make such kind of statements. Sometimes power goes into the head and people think that ‘yes, I have backup, therefore I can make any kind of statement and go scot free’. That is very wrong”.
The point to note is that all these caustic remarks by the bench are not part of the brief four-line order in which the petitioner was allowed to withdraw her petition. It means that Nupur Sharma can approach high courts and trial courts for relief. The sharp observations made by the vacation bench are however surprising.
The most surprising observation was that the bench while disapproving TV debates on a sub-judice matter like Gyanvapi said, “It is so disturbing. The outcome is what unfortunately happened in Udaipur.” In other words, the apex court directly linked Nupur’s blasphemous comment to the beheading of a tailor by two Muslim fanatics in Udaipur.
Former Delhi High Court judge retired Justice S. N. Dhingra told India TV in an interview on Saturday that the observation made by the vacation bench that Nupur Sharma’s comment resulted in the outcome of the unfortunate incident in Udaipur was “irresponsible”.
The retired judge said, “it is irresponsible because it has prejudiced the case of Nupur Sharma in all subordinate courts... Making such an observation without any probe, or hearing of witnesses or hearing Nupur Sharma’s arguments is not only illegal, but also improper”, retd Justice Dhingra said.
He said, “even the Supreme Court is not above law. Before making such observation against a person, the normal procedure is that charges should have been framed and both the prosecution and defendant should have been allowed to have their say. Supreme Court in the past had given rulings that judges should stick to the case before them and refrain from making undue observations. Here, Nupur Sharma had pleaded that there were nearly 50 FIRs pending against her that needed to be clubbed, because appearing in court could be a threat of life to her. But the Supreme Court made strong observations against her, based on newspaper and media reports, which was unfair.”
The apex court’s observations became cannon fodder for the opposition in targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said, “Instead of Nupur Sharma, it is Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, BJP and RSS, who have created this atmosphere of hate in the country. This is anti-national and goes against India’s interests and its people. The situation that we found today goes completely against our ethos and ideology.” AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi asked, why PM Modi is not saying a word about Nupur Sharma’s remark. “The Prime Minister should understand that mere suspension is not a punishment. He is the prime minister for 133 crore Indians, which include 20 crore Muslims. Nupur Sharma should be arrested, but the fact is, BJP is trying to shield her.”
Compared to the shadow-boxing by political leaders, the best comment came from a cleric of Deoband seminary, Maulana Yaqoob Bulandshahri, who said that since Nupur Sharma has apologized and withdrawn her blasphemous remark, she should be pardoned and the entire issue should now be closed.
Friday’s observations by the vacation bench of the Supreme Court have instilled confidence in the minds of those who were assuming that no action would be taken against Nupur Sharma, but it is also a fact that the Hon’ble judges, in course of the hearing, made observations which has caused upset for some people. Some of these people said that it would be unjustified to blame Nupur Sharma for the barbaric beheading of a tailor by two Muslim fanatics in Udaipur. The ‘jihadi’ (fundamentalist) mindset of the terrorists in Udaipur cannot be ignored. There can be no excuse for beheading an innocent person.
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