NEW DELHI: A group consisting of 15 retired judges of various high courts, 77 retired bureaucrats and 25 retired armed forces officers have issued an open statement saying that ‘unfortunate and unprecedented comments’ were made by a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Surya Kant and Justice J.B. Pardiwala, while hearing a petition by former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma, which has sent shockwaves in the country and outside.
The statement said the observations, simultaneously relayed by all news channels in high decibel, 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.
“Such outrageous transgressions are without parallel in the annals of judiciary. Nupur Sharma sought access to the justice system before the highest court as that court alone could consider grant of relief being sought. The observations that have no connect jurisprudentially with the issue raised in the petition, transgressed in an unprecedented manner all canons of dispensation of justice,” said the statement.
It added that 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.
The officers’ 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 observations, judgmental in nature, on issues not before the court, are crucification of the essence and spirit of the Indian Constitution. 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.
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 coordinators are Justice P.N. Ravindran former judge of Kerala High Court, and Anand Bose, former chief secretary, Kerala.