New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday granted interim protection from coercive action to suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma in connection with the FIRs/complaints filed against her in several states over her remarks on the Prophet made during a TV debate show.
It also protected her from coercive action in the FIRs/complaints which may be registered or entertained in the future about the May 26 telecast.
A bench of Justices Surya Kant and J B Pardiwala, which had earlier refused to club the FIRs lodged against Sharma after coming down heavily on her for her controversial comments on the Prophet, took note of the alleged threats to life extended to her after its July 1 order.
Observing that it never wanted Sharma to visit every court for relief, the bench issued notices to the Centre and several states including Delhi, West Bengal, and Maharashtra on her plea urging protection from arrest as well as the revival of her withdrawn petition seeking clubbing of FIRs lodged in several states.
“In the meanwhile, as an interim measure, it is directed that no coercive action shall be taken against the petitioner pursuant to the impugned FIRs/complaints or such FIRs/complaints which may be registered/entertained in future pertaining to the telecast dated May 26, 2022,” the bench said.
The top court sought responses of the Centre and the concerned states by August 10, the next date of hearing.
While taking note of the submissions made by senior advocate Maninder Singh, who appeared for Sharma and referred to the threats to her life, the bench said its concern is how to ensure that the petitioner will avail of the alternative remedy as permitted by the court on July 1.
“In the light of these subsequent events, some of which have been noticed above, the concern of this court is how to ensure that the petitioner is able to avail the alternative remedy as permitted by this court in an order dated July 1,” the bench observed.
“In order to explore such modality, let notice be issued to the respondents in miscellaneous application …. for August 10,” it said.
When Singh said that notice be issued on the main petition also, the bench said that copies of the main writ petition be also forwarded along with the notice for ready reference of the respondents (Centre and concerned states).
The bench permitted the petitioner to file an additional affidavit giving specific details of the threats extended to her after filing the application.
During the arguments, Singh said that since the July 1 order of the top court, Sharma has been extended threats to life and it has come on record that a person from Pakistan has travelled to India to attack her.
He said that recently in Patna, some alleged extremists arrested, who are said to have the petitioner as their target.
The bench asked Singh whether these incidents, which he is referring to, happened after July 1 order.
The senior counsel replied in the affirmative.
Singh said that the apex court wanted Sharma to go to different courts for relief but it has become increasingly difficult for her to visit the courts due to increasing threats.
“We must correct the facts. Perhaps we were not able to convey correctly but we never wanted you to go to every court for relief,” the bench said.
Singh submitted, “What has happened has already happened. There is continuing threat to her life. These threats are genuine and real. After the July 1 order, the West Bengal Police registered four fresh FIRs. This is a question of Article 21.” The bench said what it understand correctly from Singh’s submission is that the petitioner wants to go to any one court like the Delhi High Court.
“We never wanted you or your family to be put in any kind of danger,” the bench said.
Singh said in these circumstances, they are seeking clubbing of the FIRs as all of them are based on the same cause of action.
“The court can club all the other FIRs to the first FIR which was lodged in Delhi as they arise out of the same video. Stay off the investigation in other FIRs and protection be granted from any coercive action. If any future FIRs or complaints are lodged arising out of the same cause of action those may also be stayed,” Singh said.
The bench said, “Our concern is that petitioner is not deprived of availing the legal remedy. We will pass orders to that effect.” On July 1, the same bench of the top court severely criticised Sharma for her controversial comments against the Prophet, saying her “loose tongue” has “set the entire country on fire” and that she is “single-handedly responsible for what is happening in the country”.