Ex-judges criticise Supreme Court's remarks against Nupur Sharma
A group of former judges and bureaucrats on Tuesday demanded that the Supreme Court recall its observations against suspended Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Nupur Sharma, alleging that the court crossed the “Laxman Rekha” while making comments that are an “indelible scar on the justice system of the largest democracy”. The group, comprising 15 high court judges, 77 ex-all India services officers and 25 veterans, alleged that the “unfortunate” comments are not in sync with the judicial ethos and have sent “shockwaves” in the country and outside.
“In the annals of the judiciary, the unfortunate comments have no parallel and are an indelible scar on the justice system of the largest democracy. Urgent rectification steps are called for as these have potentially serious consequences on democratic values and security of the country,” they said in a signed statement.
The 117 signatories include former chief justice of the Bombay High Court Kshitij Vyas, former Kerala High Court judge P N Ravindran, former Gujarat High Court judge S M Soni, former Rajasthan High Court judges R S Rathore and Prashant Agarwal and former Delhi High Court judge S N Dhingra.
Former IAS officers Anand Bose, R S Gopalan and S Krishna Kumar, ambassador (retired) Niranjan Desai, former DGPs S P Vaid and B L Vohra, Lt Gen V K Chaturvedi (retired) and Air Marshall (retired) S P Singh have also signed the same statement.
“By no stretch, these observations, which are not part of the judicial order, can be sanctified on the plank of judicial propriety and fairness. Such outrageous transgressions are without parallel in the annals of Judiciary,” it said.
The Supreme Court had on July 1 come down heavily on Sharma for her controversial comments against Prophet Mohammad, saying her “loose tongue” has “set the entire country on fire” and that she is “single-handedly responsible for what is happening in the country”.
Refusing to entertain her plea for clubbing of FIRs lodged in various states against her for the remark, the bench held that the comment was made either for cheap publicity, political agenda or some nefarious activities.
Criticising the observations, the statement said, “We, as concerned citizens, do believe that democracy of any country will remain intact till all the institutions perform their duties as per the constitution. Recent comments by the two judges of the Supreme Court have surpassed the Laxman Rekha and compelled us to issue an open statement.” These “unfortunate and unprecedented” comments have sent shockwaves in the country and outside, it claimed.
“The observations are too serious to be overlooked if rule of law and democracy have to sustain and blossom, and deserve to be recalled with the stance that soothes minds that care for justice,” it added.
Noting that Sharma sought access to the justice system before the highest court, the statement said the court's observations have no connect jurisprudentially with the issue raised in the petition and “transgressed in an unprecedented manner all canons of the dispensation of justice”.
“She was defacto denied access to judiciary and in the process, there was an outrage on the preamble, spirit and essence of the Constitution of India,” it alleged. In the observations, there is the virtual exoneration of the “dastardliest beheading at Udaipur in broad daylight,” it claimed.
It further said, “Legal fraternity is bound to be surprised and shocked at the observation that an FIR should lead to arrest. The observations on other agencies in the country, without notice to them, are indeed worrisome and alarming.” The signatories also defended Sharma's plea for clubbing all FIRs against her citing previous orders of the apex court.
“One fails to understand why Nupur's case is treated at a different pedestal. Such an approach of the Supreme Court deserves no applause and impacts the very sanctity and honour of the highest court of the land,” it said. “The observations, judgmental in nature, on issues not before the court, are crucification of the essence and spirit of the Indian Constitution. Forcing a petitioner by such damning observations, pronouncing her guilty without trial, and denial of access to justice on the issue raised in the petition, can never be a facet of a democratic society,” it claimed.
Sharma's comments against the Prophet during a TV debate had triggered protests across the country and drew sharp reactions from many Gulf countries. The BJP subsequently suspended her from the party.
The apex court had also pulled up the Delhi Police which had registered an FIR against her. The bench said, “What has happened in the investigation so far? What has Delhi Police done so far? Don't make us open our mouth? They must have put a red carpet for you.” Also on July 1, a letter petition was filed before Chief Justice N V Ramana seeking withdrawal of adverse remarks made by a Supreme Court bench against Sharma. The letter petition, filed by Delhi-based Ajay Gautam, who claims to be a social activist, said that it be treated as a PIL and the adverse remarks made during the hearing be declared as “uncalled for”.