The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted interim protection from arrest till August 10 to suspended Bharatiya Janata Party 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 any coercive action in the first information reports (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 multiple FIRs lodged against Sharma after coming down heavily on her for her controversial comments on Prophet Muhammad, 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including Delhi, West Bengal, and Maharashtra on her plea urging protection from arrest as well as the revival of her withdrawn petition seeking clubbing of nine FIRs lodged in several states.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 nine 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 the miscellaneous application for August 10,' it said.
The top court said, 'The petitioner has approached this court to quash all FIRs registered against her. Since her prayer can be granted in exercise of powers under Article 226, this court had on July 1 2022 relegated the petitioner to avail alternate remedy.'
It added that now the petitioner has filed a miscellaneous application pointing out inter alia that it has become impossible for her to avail remedy granted by this court and that there is imminent necessity to protect her life and liberty as guaranteed under Article 21.
The bench then noted in its order that after July 1, order various incidents including Salman Chisti, a Khadim of Ajmer Dargah circulated a video for rewarding those who would behead the petitioner and one more video has been made viral of a man in UP threatening to behead her.
Singh said that the apex court had 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 a continuing threat to her life. These threats are genuine and real. No amount of security will be able to protect her if she is asked to appear before different courts. After the July 1 order, the West Bengal Police registered four fresh FIRs. A Look Out Circular has been issued by Calcutta Police. This is a question of Article 21, she needs to be protected.'
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 Sharma 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 were arrested, who are said to have the petitioner as their target.
The bench was told by Singh that these incidents, which he is referring to, happened after the July 1 order.
The bench said, 'We never wanted you or your family to be put in any kind of danger.'
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 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 while referring to the application.
The bench said, 'Our concern is that the 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'.