A group consisting of 15 retired judges of various high courts, 77 retired bureaucrats and 25 retired armed forces officers have written an open letter criticising the observations of the Supreme Court on a plea by former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma.
They alleged that the comments made by the two judges — Justices Surya Kant and Justice J.B. Pardiwala — are unfortunate and unprecedented, and the top court surpassed the ‘Laxman Rekha’ and called for urgent rectification steps.
The statement said: “In the annals of judiciary, the unfortunate comments have no parallel and are an indelible scar on the justice system of the largest democracy. Urgent rectification steps are called for as these have potentially serious consequences on democratic values and security of the country.”
The veterans said they believe that the democracy of any country will remain intact till all the institutions perform their duties as per the Constitution. “Recent comments by the two judges of the Supreme Court have surpassed the Laxman Rekha and compelled us to issue an open statement.”
It further added that observations are not in sync with judicial ethos and by no stretch these observations, which are not part of the judicial order, can be sanctified on the plank of judicial propriety and fairness.
The veterans said through such observation, perceptionally there is virtual exoneration of the dastardliest beheading at Udaipur in broad daylight. “The observations also graduate to the most unjustifiable degree that this was only to fan an agenda… In the annals of judiciary, the unfortunate comments have no parallel and are an indelible scar on the justice system of the largest democracy,” said the three-page open statement. They said Sharma was de facto denied access to the judiciary and in the process, there was an outrage on the Preamble, spirit and essence of the Constitution.
The veterans said the legal fraternity is bound to be surprised and shocked at the observation that an FIR should lead to arrest and the observations on other agencies in the country, without notice to them, are indeed worrisome and alarming. “Forcing a petitioner by such damning observations, pronouncing her guilty without trial, and denial of access to justice on issue raised in the petition, can never be a facet of a democratic society,” added the statement.
Sharma had moved the top court seeking clubbing of FIRs, registered in various parts of the country, into one FIR at Delhi in the matter connected with her remarks against the Prophet Muhammed. On July 1, the apex court slammed Sharma for her controversial remarks.
The statement said the allegations constitute only one offence for which separate prosecutions (FIRs) were launched and Article 20 (2) of the Constitution prohibits prosecution and punishment more than once for the same offence. “Article 20 falls under Part III of the Constitution and is a guaranteed fundamental right. The Supreme Court in a number of cases, including Arnab Goswamy vs. Union of India (2020) and T.T. Anthony vs. State of Kerala clearly laid down the law that there can be no second FIR and consequently there can be no fresh investigation in respect to the second FIR on the same issue. Such an action is violative of fundamental rights as guaranteed under Article 20(2) of the Constitution”, it said.
“Such an approach of the Supreme Court deserves no applause and impacts the very sanctity and honour of the highest court of land,” it added.
The signatories include former chief justice of the Bombay High Court Kshitij Vyas, former Gujarat High Court judge S.M. Soni, former Delhi High Court judge S.N. Dhingra, former chief justice (acting) Gauhati High Court K. Sreedhar Rao, former Rajasthan High Court judges R.S. Rathore and Prashant Agarwal.
The other signatories include: former IAS officers R.S. Gopalan and S. Krishna Kumar, former DGPs S.P. Vaid and B.L. Vohra, ambassador (retired) Niranjan Desai, Lt Gen V.K. Chaturvedi (retired) and Air Marshall (retired) S.P. Singh. The coordinators are Justice P.N. Ravindran, former judge of Kerala High Court, and Anand Bose, former chief secretary, Kerala.