Supreme Court's Oral Observations In Nupur Sharma Case Could Send A Wrong Signal

by Himanshu Jain - Jul 3, 2022 07:46 PM +05:30 IST
Supreme Court's Oral Observations In Nupur Sharma Case Could Send A Wrong SignalThe Supreme Court of India. (SAJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • It’s no surprise that many have already started calling Sharma guilty and the fundamentalists, who are baying for her blood, have got no warning or mention from the top court, which is likely to send wrong signals.

It’s tradition to see oral observations by a judge as obiter dictum. But, at least in India, they are taken seriously.

Several crimes have been registered in various states against the now-suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma in response to her comments during a news debate. Sharma has, over the last few weeks, received a series of threats on her life, with people openly declaring a prize on beheading her. This includes a Member of Parliament, who demanded that Sharma be hanged publicly for her remarks, and others in public positions.

As I write this, Sharma has a lookout circular against her and has been asked to appear before the Narkeldanga and Amherst police stations of West Bengal.

Sharma approached the Supreme Court seeking to club all the first information reports (FIRs) registered against her in several states, as all are based on the same case. Earlier, when journalist Arnab Goswami and several others had knocked on the door of the apex court under similar circumstances, they had received relief.

While Sharma's counsel has withdrawn the petition for now, one hopes that another petition with some more material will be filed at a later date in support of clubbing the FIR against her.

The Supreme Court, while considering Sharma's petition, commented that she was single-handedly responsible for what was happening in the country and also the heinous incident in Rajasthan's Udaipur, where a Hundi tailor was beheaded by fundamentalists for supporting Sharma.

This observation of the honourable court has surprised commoners like me. The comment was somewhat harsh and made without any investigation or finding of her facing the trial. Seen in the background of the threats Sharma has received, such an observation can not only put her life at a bigger risk, but can also be used as a justification by some to harm her.

I'm not going into the comment Sharma made or whether she is guilty of a crime or not, but her petition was about clubbing the FIRs against her in several states, some of which were not even related to the TV debate where she made the comment in question.

While such FIRs could be quashed, others could be clubbed as it would be impossible for her to run around from one state to another for the same set of FIRs and have similar parallel processes running all around the country.

The investigation into these FIRs is not yet complete, and hence, the trial has not started, and so, obviously, she has not been proven guilty yet.

In one of its observations, the honourable Supreme Court asked why Delhi Police had not arrested Sharma yet. The apex court said that Sharma has a clout and that a red carpet has been laid out for her. I wonder on what material did the highest court base these observations against Sharma, which finally did not appear in its final order. The highest court was only hearing a petition on the clubbing of FIRs.

It’s no surprise that many have already started calling Sharma guilty and the fundamentalists, who are baying for her blood, have got no warning or mention from the top court, which is likely to send wrong signals.

Observers, including several senior counsels and former judges, have pointed out that this could take the people, who do not believe in street veto, away from judicial process. It is the duty of the judiciary to ensure that people do not lose faith in the rule of law.

I'm not defending the petitioner in the case — far from it. All I'm arguing for is a free and fair trial and safety for her, like any other citizen of this country.

Himanshu Jain is a political commentator.
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