SC's nationwide shield for Nupur Sharma against police action
The Supreme Court on Tuesday restrained police across the country from taking coercive action on the multiple FIRs against suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma for her comments denigrating Prophet Mohammed.
The FIRs include three in Bengal, besides the state’s “look-out-notice” on Sharma.
The bench of Justices Surya Kant and J.B. Pardiwala had on July 1 rejected Nupur’s writ petition to club the FIRs across the country and hear them together in Delhi, saying she was “single-handedly” responsible for “igniting emotions throughout the country”.
Nupur, suspended as spokesperson by the BJP after an uproar over her comments, had moved a fresh appeal before the apex court, citing intensification of threats to her in the aftermath of the July 1 observations.
On Tuesday, the bench of Justices Surya Kant and Pardiwala restrained authorities from taking any coercive action against Nupur and issued notices to the states of Maharashtra, Telangana and Bengal, besides Delhi police, to file their response to her plea for transfer of the FIRs to Delhi. The court posted the matter for further hearing to August 10.
On Monday, the Supreme Court had observed that AltNews co-founder Mohammed Zubair was caught in a “vicious circle” of multiple cases and restrained Uttar Pradesh police from taking “precipitative action” against him in the slew of FIRs registered in the state. Zubair had initially been arrested in Delhi on the charge of promoting enmity and hurting religious sentiments through a 2018 tweet and then case after case were booked against him across BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh on similar charges.
Nupur had submitted through senior advocate Maninder Singh that three FIRs were lodged against her in Bengal after the July 1 observations of the Supreme Court and the state police had also issued a lookout notice against her.
She also brought to the court’s notice threats to behead her, calls to chop off her tongue and rewards being announced to kill her. Nupur said it was difficult for her to fight the legal cases in different parts of the country.
The Supreme Court passed the following written order on Tuesday: “Since the above-reproduced prayers for quashing of the FIRs can be effectively granted by a High Court… this Court on 01.07.2022 relegated the petitioner to avail such alternative remedy. The petitioner has now filed miscellaneous application… that it has become nearly impossible for her to avail the alternative remedy granted by this Court and that there is an imminent necessity for this Court to intervene and protect her life and liberty as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
“In support of her plea, the petitioner has averred in the miscellaneous application that after the order dated 01.07.2022 passed by this Court, various subsequent events have occurred, including — (i) One Salman Chisti claiming to be a Khadim of Ajmer Dargah has circulated a video whereby in a very disturbing manner he has called upon for cutting the throat of the applicant/petitioner; (ii) One more person, Nasir, resident of Uttar Pradesh, has made a viral video using abusive language against the petitioner and threatened to behead her; (iii) Some more FIRs have been registered in the State of West Bengal which were earlier not in the knowledge of the petitioner; and (iv) The Kolkata Police has issued a ‘lookout circular’ dated 02.07.2022 due to which she apprehends her immediate arrest and consequential denial of fair opportunity to approach different High Courts for seeking quashing of the FIRs.
“...Maninder Singh, learned senior counsel for the petitioner, has referred to two more instances where there is a serious threat to the life of the petitioner and these instances are reported to have taken place after filing of this miscellaneous application. He seeks and is permitted to file an additional affidavit giving specific details of these instances.
“In the light of these subsequent events, some of which have been noticed above, the concern of this Court is to ensure that the petitioner is able to avail the appropriate remedy as permitted by this Court vide order dated 01.07.2022. In order to explore such modalities, let notice be issued to the respondents in miscellaneous application… returnable on 10.08.2022.
“…Meanwhile, as an interim measure, it is directed that no coercive action shall be taken against the petitioner pursuant to the impugned FIR(s)/complaint(s) or the FIR(s)/complaint(s) which may be registered/entertained in the future pertaining to the telecast dated 26.05.2022 (when Nupur made the comments).”