THE SUPREME Court on Wednesday ordered that all existing and future FIRs against suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma for her remarks on the Prophet should be clubbed together and transferred to the Delhi Police.
The bench of Justices Surya Kant and J B Pardiwala also extended interim protection from any coercive action to Sharma till the Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit of the Delhi Police completes its investigation.
Multiple FIRs have been filed against Sharma, across different states including Delhi, West Bengal and Maharashtra, for her remarks on the Prophet during a TV show on May 26.
On July 1, the bench had declined to entertain Sharma’s plea for clubbing the FIRs against her, and had reprimanded her, saying she has a “loose tongue” and is “single-handedly responsible for what is happening in the country”. But on July 19, the bench had granted her interim protection from “coercive action”, and clarified that it “never wanted” Sharma to go to “every court” to seek relief in the cases.
“Since this court has already taken cognizance of a serious threat to the life and liberty of the petitioner, and specific instances in relation thereto have been cited in our previous order dated July 19, 2022, besides those contained in the additional affidavit filed by the petitioner today, we direct that all the FIRs…be transferred and clubbed for the purpose of investigation by Delhi Police,” the bench said on Wednesday.
Sharma’s counsel, Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, told the bench that the petitioner had come to know about two more FIRs filed against her. “The most important consideration is threat to life,” he submitted, and urged the court to club all the FIRs with the one registered in Delhi.
Appearing for West Bengal, Senior Advocate Menaka Guruswamy said the FIR registered in Maharashtra was the first one in which Sharma was named as an accused.
However, considering the threats pointed out by Sharma, the court granted her relief, and asked the Delhi Police to ensure that the FIR in Maharashtra and the one filed by its IFSO unit are investigated together, and the other FIRs are clubbed with these.
Referring to the storm over Sharma’s remarks, Guruswamy urged the court to set up an SIT to probe the matter. “…There have been various politicians on either side who have come out in support. May I suggest the constitution of a joint SIT with members from different forces,” she said.
But the bench said that “since IFSO of Delhi Police appears to be a specialised agency, it shall be appreciated if all the FIRs are investigated by the said unit”.
“The IFSO, as a specialised investigating agency, shall be at liberty to collect… any information if so required for the purpose of reaching a logical conclusion,” it said.
Rejecting West Bengal’s request that the investigation be monitored by the SC, Justice Surya Kant said: “Monitoring by the court of investigation of an FIR… even as a High Court judge, I have never appreciated it, because it puts undue and undesirable pressure on the investigative agency. Investigative agencies should have complete faith, trust and independence, and dispassionate atmosphere for investigation”.
The bench said the directions “shall also extend to any other FIR/ complaint which may be registered/ entertained against the petitioner… in respect to the same subject matter… and in that event, the investigation of the FIR or complaint to be registered in future shall also stand transferred to the IFSO unit of the Delhi Police for the purpose of investigation”.
On Sharma’s plea that the FIRs be quashed, the court said she should approach the Delhi High Court.
Guruswamy pointed out that the court had rejected Sharma’s plea earlier. “We would have agreed but for the circumstances that led to our order of July 19. It says ‘petitioner has now filed miscellaneous application… pointing out, inter alia, that it has become nearly impossible for her to avail the alternative remedy granted by this Court and that there is an imminent necessity for this Court to intervene and protect her life and liberty as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. In support of her plea, the petitioner has averred in the miscellaneous application that after the order dated 01.07.2022 passed by this Court, various subsequent events have occurred…’ Today’s affidavit again mentions that. This is the reason that compelled or persuaded us to intervene and give it a kind of a second thought… for limited purposes,” the bench said.
Guruswamy argued that no new circumstance had arisen after the last order and said that “in terms of the threat, we will give whatever security they need. But the problem here is that they are forum shopping”.
“Let’s not create a situation where you are under stress, the entire system is under stress, the states are under stress, the petitioner is under stress,” the court said.
“What has happened to the atmosphere of the rule of law and our constitutional democracy by the petitioner’s statements,” the senior counsel said.
The court said it was confident that the states and constitutional authorities would take care of that.
“Some states are supporting this conduct. That is the problem here,” said Guruswamy.
“That issue is not before us. So we will not go into that question,” the bench responded.