New Delhi: The Supreme Court’s severe criticism of suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma over her offensive remarks about Prophet Mohammed, which triggered widespread protests and even violence in some places, has sparked a row with some groups supporting and others attacking the top court’s observations, seeking their retention or recall.
A group of “concerned citizens”, comprising 15 retired high court judges, 77 former bureaucrats and 25 retired armed forces officers have called the court’s observations as “unwanted, unwarranted and uncalled for”, saying they crossed the “lakshman rekha”, and sought their recall.
However, opposing any expunging of the observations by the top court bench, the All-India Bar Association (AIBA), in a letter to Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, has said the judges on the bench, “anguished by the public order disturbance and security threat triggered by Ms Sharma’s remarks, made important and timely remarks which are conscientious and in the national interest”.
Dr Adish C. Aggarwala, senior advocate and chairman, All India Bar Association, in a letter to Chief Justice Ramana, said that the bench of Justices Surya Kant and J.B. Pardiwala had sent a “categorical message to society at large by pulling up Ms Sharma… that public personalities and spokespersons of political parties should be more careful not to hurt the religious feelings of anyone”, and the bench has “done its constitutional duty with aplomb”.
“It is the sovereign duty of the judiciary to insulate the secular fabric of this nation from being damaged by irresponsible acts of public figures”, the AIBA’s letter to Chief Justice Ramana said.
The AIBA’s letter released on Tuesday was sent to CJI Ramana on July 2 -- a day after a lawyer in a letter to petition on July 1 had sought the expunging of the strong observations by the bench.
In a strongly-worded open statement, the “concerned citizens” aggrieved by the top court’s observation reprimanding Nupur Sharma said: “Unfortunate and unprecedented comments emanating from the two-judge bench … while being seized of a petition by Nupur Sharma, have sent shockwaves in the country and outside”. It said: “Such outrageous transgressions are without parallel in the annals of the judiciary.”
The open statement was issued on behalf of 15 retired high court judges, 77 former bureaucrats and 25 retired armed forces officers by a former judge of the Kerala high court, Justice P.N. Ravindran, and a former chief secretary of Kerala, Anand Bose. It said: “The observations… transgressed in an unprecedented manner all canons of dispensation of justice. She was de facto denied access to the judiciary and in the process, there was an outrage on the Preamble, the spirit and essence of the Constitution of India.”
Besides the “concerned citizens”, a Human Rights Forum and Social Justice of J&K and Ladakh, at Jammu, also expressed anguish and pain over the “indiscreet remarks” by the bench and urged the Chief Justice of India to ask the judges to withdraw their “unconstitutional” remarks.
The forum, in a letter to CJI Ramana, said: “We, the members of the forum … do feel utmost pain and agony by the conduct and remarks by Justices Surya Kant and J.B. Pardiwala while dealing with the writ petition filed by Nupur Sharma seeking transfer of all the FIRs as lodged against her to Delhi to face trial”.
Both these groups are frowning upon the observations by a bench which comprised Justices Surya Kant and J.B. Pardiwala castigating the BJP spokesperson, now suspended, for her “loose tongue” which it said had “set the entire country on fire” and was responsible for the “unfortunate” incident and violence in Udaipur.
Irked over Nupur Sharma’s offensive comments on Prophet Mohammed that sparked protests across the country and violence in certain parts, the Supreme Court had in the course of a hearing on July 1 also said: “The way she has ignited emotions across the country… this lady is single-handedly responsible for what is happening in the country”.
Dismissing the petition filed by Nupur Sharma, seeking the clubbing of all the FIRs registered against her across the country and their investigation by a single agency, as being withdrawn, the court had said: “The conscience of the court is not satisfied. We can’t mould the law accordingly.”