For Supreme Court Judges, A New Controversy Over Nupur Sharma Criticism

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Fifteen ex-judges, 77 former bureaucrats and 25 retired officers of the armed forces have criticised the Supreme Court’s recent comments against Nupur Sharma, the since-suspended BJP leader whose remarks on Prophet Mohammed led to protests and a diplomatic row.
Their open letter to Chief Justice of India CV Ramana says the two-judge bench’s observation — that she is “single-handedly responsible for what is happening in the country” — was a “virtual exoneration of the dastardliest beheading at Udaipur”. A tailor named Kanhaiya Lal was murdered in Rajasthan’s Udaipur last month by two men over his social media posts supporting Nupur Sharma.

Ms Sharma had gone to the Supreme Court demanding that FIRs registered against her across the country should be clubbed together and transferred to Delhi. The court, on July 1, refused her plea and made some scathing comments. The judges said Nupur Sharma’s “loose tongue” had “set the entire country on fire”, and that her comments were either for cheap publicity, political agenda or some “nefarious” activities. The observations were not part of the final order, though.

The open letter today says those “unfortunate and unprecedented comments” from the bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice JB Pardiwala “are not in sync with judicial ethos”. “Such outrageous transgressions are without parallel in the annals of judiciary.” It says the observations had “no connect” with the issue raised in her petition. As she was “denied access to judiciary” — the letter adds — there was “an outrage on the Preamble, spirit and essence of the Constitution of India”.

On July 1, after Ms Sharma’s lawyer said she’d been getting threats and it wouldn’t be safe for her to travel for probes in different states, Justice Surya Kant had remarked, “She faces threats or she has become security threat?… It is shameful. She should apologise to the whole country.”

Slamming Ms Sharma further, the court had said her remarks “show her obstinate and arrogant character”. “What if she is the spokesperson of a party? She thinks she has backup of power and can make any statement without respect to the law of the land,” Justice Surya Kant had said.

The letter against the court’s observations says, “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.”

The 117 signatories include former Bombay High Court Chief Justice Kshitij Vyas, former Gujarat High Court judge SM Soni, former Rajasthan High Court judges RS Rathore and Prashant Agarwal, and former Delhi High Court judge SN Dhingra.

Former IAS officers RS Gopalan and S Krishna Kumar, former top police officers SP Vaid and PC Dogra, Lt General VK Chaturvedi (retired), and Air Marshal SP Singh (retired) are also among them.

Earlier, about criticism of their observations, Justice JB Pardiwala had reacted to social media attacks against him and Justice Surya Kant. “Personal attacks on judges for their judgements lead to a dangerous scenario,” he had said.

“Social and digital media is primarily resorted to expressing personalised opinions more against the judges, rather than a constructive critical appraisal of their judgments. This is what is harming the judicial institution and lowering its dignity,” he’d further argued in his address at a function two days ago.

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