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Top judge snubs Shilpa’s plea

New Delhi, Jan. 13: Outgoing Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal today confirmed that actress Shilpa Shetty had written to him requesting guidelines to curb motivated obscenity cases against artistes, but clarified that only those without the means to approach the court could seek relief through letters.

Sabharwal, who demits office tomorrow, also talked about other issues he has dealt with in his career and rated his decision on Delhi’s sealing drive as the most “difficult”.

Shilpa had written to the Chief Justice saying she was being unnecessarily harassed because a lawyer had filed an obscenity case in connection with pictures published in a Tamil eveninger. A Madurai court had issued arrest warrants after she failed to appear before it following summons. She later got the warrant stayed by the high court.

The actress also wrote to the National Commission for Women to help her deal with such frivolous cases.

Sabharwal, who was interacting with reporters at his residence, said only the poor who cannot afford the cost of litigation could knock on the doors of the Supreme Court through letters, not the rich who can fight their cases by “hiring lawyers”.

Shilpa, he added, can file a petition.

In a 1984 judgment, the apex court had said that when it was for the rights of the poor, disabled or the ignorant, even a letter could be treated as a petition. Any public-spirited person could highlight violation of rights of such disadvantaged sections in a letter, including postcards and telegrams, addressed to the court, the order said.

After the judgment, a PIL cell was set up to scrutinise all letters addressed to the court or individual judges. The cell would forward the ones it thinks are important to the Chief Justice, who would decide whether they need to be entertained or not.

Talking about his sealing order, Sabharwal said it was a “difficult” ruling, not because of law but because he knew the “suffering” of the people of Delhi.

“I was portrayed as if I have no compassion…I do no believe in humanitarian grounds,” said the judge who withstood all pressures, including from the government, to stand firm on sealing residential premises that were being used for unauthorised commercial purposes. “If there is a law it has to be implemented,” he added.

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