'These people are not religious. They do not have respect for other religions… This lady is single-handedly responsible for what is happening in the country… Has a loose tongue'
The Supreme Court on Friday came down heavily on suspended Bharatiya Janata Party leader Nupur Sharma for her controversial comments against Prophet Mohammed, 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".
Refusing to entertain Sharma's plea for clubbing of FIRs lodged in various states against her for the remark, the bench held that the comment was made either for cheap publicity, political agenda or some nefarious activities.
"She actually has a loose tongue and has made all kinds of irresponsible statements on TV and set the entire country on fire. Yet, she claims to be a lawyer of 10 years standing... She should have immediately apologised for her comments to the whole country," the court said.
Sharma's remark against the Prophet during a TV debate triggered protests across the country and drew sharp reactions from many Gulf countries. The BJP subsequently suspended her from the party.
"These remarks are very disturbing and smack of arrogance. What is her business to make such remarks? These remarks have led to unfortunate incidents in the country...These people are not religious. They do not have respect for other religions. These remarks were made for cheap publicity or political agenda or some other nefarious activities", the bench said.
While refusing to entertain Sharma's plea for clubbing of FIRs, a vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and JB Pardiwala allowed her to withdraw the plea.
"She has a threat or she has become a security threat? The way she has ignited emotions across the country -- this lady is single-handedly responsible for what is happening in the country," the bench said when Sharma's lawyer Maninder Singh pointed out that she was facing threats to life.
The bench further said, "The way she ignited emotions across the country has led to unfortunate incidents. This lady is single-handedly responsible for what is happening in the country. We saw the debate."
The court's observations against the suspended BJP leader come against the backdrop of the brutal murder of a tailor in Udaipur by two men, who had posted videos online, claiming that they were avenging an insult to Islam.
Senior advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for Sharma, said she had indeed apologised for her remarks and there are several judgments that say there cannot be two FIRs for the same incident.
The bench said, "Her apology came too late and that too conditionally saying if religious sentiments are hurt and so on. She should have been on TV immediately and apologised to the nation."
The court said her petition smacks of arrogance and that she thinks that the magistrate of the country is too small for her.
"When an FIR is registered and you are not arrested, this shows your clout. She thinks she has the power to back up and goes on to make irresponsible statements,” the bench said.
Singh said Sharma was a spokesperson of a political party and her unintentional comments were in relation to a debate.
"If you are a spokesperson of a party, it is not a licence to say things like this," the bench said, adding, "If there was a misuse of the debate, the first thing she should have done was to file an FIR against the anchor."
Singh said she had reacted to the debate initiated by other debators and pointed to the transcript of the debate. He said that there were serious debates on the issue within the same community and Sharma's remarks were made in that context only.
The bench said, "What was the TV debate for? Was it to fan an agenda and why did they choose a sub-judice topic? What is the business of the TV channel to discuss the matter which is sub-judice, except to promote an agenda?”
Referring to various apex court verdicts, Singh said there cannot be a second FIR on the same cause of action.
Justice Kant said she has remedy before the high court and can very well approach it, if there is a second FIR.
Singh then referred to the Arnab Goswami case of 2020 and TT Antony case of 2001, and said the law has been laid down by the apex court that multiple FIR on the same configuration can be clubbed and there can be no second FIR on the same cause.
The bench said, "The case of a journalist expressing his right on a particular issue is on a different pedestal from a spokesperson of a political party who is lambasting others with irresponsible statements without thinking of the consequences."
Justice Kant said, "Yes. In a democracy everyone has the right to speak. In a democracy grass has the right to grow and donkeys have the right to eat."
Singh said she has joined the investigation being conducted by the Delhi police and not running away and multiple FIRs are lodged against her in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Nagpur to Jammu and Kashmir for the same cause of action.
The bench said, "What has happened in the investigation so far? What has Delhi police done so far? Don't make us open our mouth? They must have put a red carpet for you."
Observing that in this case special treatment was meted out to an individual, the bench said when an FIR is registered against someone he is arrested but Sharma was not arrested.
After the hearing which lasted for nearly 30 minutes, the bench said it is not convinced with her bona fides and the conscience of the court is not satisfied and refused to entertain the petition saying, "You avail other remedies."
After the court's unsparing criticism of Sharma, the Congress said the ruling party should hang its head in shame.
In a statement, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said the court has made crucial and far-reaching observations and strengthened the party's resolve to fight "destructively divisive ideologies".
"These remarks by the Supreme Court, which resonate with the entire country, should make the party in power hang its head in shame," he added.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi demanded the immediate arrest of Sharma and said rule of law should prevail.