This is the point where I’ll urge honorable Supreme Court to keep in mind the good old principle of weighing words carefully. I shall not comment on Honorable Justice Surya Kant’s allegedly controversial elevation in 2018, where allegations of corruption and casteism against him went un-investigated, but I’ll say this:
The 2-judge bench was not considering the matter of Nupur Sharma ji on its merits. As such, they didn’t have any more data than we have. As such, phrases like “she’s single-handedly responsible for what’s happening in country; she’s a security threat; her loose tongue had set entire country on fire; she should’ve apologized to the whole nation and much sooner, unconditionally too,” sent a chilling message to ordinary Indian citizens and especially Hindus.
That court will say nothing on insult to Lord Shiva, will give bail to people within a week who did that, but orally declare a woman “single-handedly responsible” when intolerant take the law into their hands, behead the people on video, threaten innocent citizens with death and run riots across the country because of their own hurt religious sentiments.
Such remarks, which do not find mention in the court’s written observations either, can cause enormous distress to ordinary Hindu citizens in future and if not raising doubts about a prestigious institution’s legitimacy and neutrality, then it will certainly encourage massive self-censorship. Never a good sign for a democracy. Courts are supposed to be the ultimate protector of Indian Citizens’ fundamental rights.
If government will ignore Rule of Law, then Court will make sure it is upheld. That nobody is pronounced guilty without due process. Oral remarks, or even insinuations in written judgement, that too by top court of our nation, can do enormous damage to a person.
The example is not too far or too old either. 16 years ago, another 2-judge bench, while hearing the best-bakery case, made a remark “The modern day ‘Neros’ were looking elsewhere when Best Bakery and innocent children and helpless women were burning, and were probably deliberating how the perpetrators of the crime can be saved or protected.”
That’s from the written order. We didn’t have fast internet or social media back then. So I don’t know whether there was something different in oral remarks. But if a transcript on Teesta Setalvad’s NGO website is to be believed, Karan Thapar in an interview in CNN-IBN 18 in 2007 had said this “open comment” and “observation” was aimed at Narendra Damodardas Modi. The man who’d become PM of India.
He was not alone in such an assertion; a whole host of people did that. But I’m focusing here on him for some specific reasons.
Mr. Thapar today indulges with fairly left-wing website The Wire—whose antecedents are known to every-one who takes an interest in political happenings in the country. Especially about a case last year in loni, gaziabad, where this website and alleged fact-checker who declared Nupur Sharma a blasphemer before court, have been booked for the same kinds of offences when they tried to communalize the incident of beating of a Muslim man named abdul samad saifi, whose beard was cut off due to personal enmity. But both of these entities, The Wire and alleged fact checker ran wild stories devoid of all facts and truth when they alleged that this thing with his beard happened because Mr. Saifi was a Muslim and he was forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram.’
Just like then, so it was in 2007, about which Mr. Thapar admits in a 2018 article on this website, which I’m quoting at length:
“In fact, the truth is—sadly and foolishly, I did not know this at that time—the modern-day Nero comment I had quoted was not spoken verbally, as the newspapers of the time had suggested, but was part of a formal written judgment delivered by the Supreme Court. Teesta Setalvad gave me the details after watching the three-minute interview. In its judgment in the Zahira Habibulla H. Sheikh v. State of Gujarat case, delivered on 12 April 2004 by a bench comprising Justices Doraiswamy Raju and Arijit Pasayat and written by the latter, this is what the Supreme Court put in writing: ‘The modern-day “Neros” were looking elsewhere when Best Bakery and innocent children and helpless women were burning, and were probably deliberating how the perpetrators of the crime can be saved or protected.’ To be honest, this was even more damning than what I had claimed was only said orally. The written version also accused Mr Modi of ‘probably deliberating how the perpetrators of the crime can be saved or protected’.”
Mr. Thapar, while sadly admitting his foolishness, about his assertion of this particular remark being a verbal jibe, as the newspapers of the time had suggested (according to him), surprisingly commits the same foolish mistake about the exact same remark. Again. And this, after being supplied ‘details’ by a person like Teesta Setalvad about the same. But given the running allegations against Mrs. Setalvad’s, we can’t really blame him for making such mistakes, even if we should question his own judgement about relying on the evidence given by the woman.
I have read the entire Supreme Court judgement of 12 April 2004 about Best Bakery. And I can say with some confidence that Mr. Thapar is categorically wrong in his assertion that the written version accused Mr. Modi of anything, let alone, of ‘probably deliberating how the perpetrators of the crime can be saved or protected’. Because nowhere in the said judgement, the name of Mr. Narendra Modi appears anywhere. Not in his personal capacity, nor even as a reference to Office of Chief Minister. Sure, for Government of Gujarat, there’s ample amount of vicious barbs from the court.
Which is not unjustified either. Best Bakery was a textbook case of shoddy handling by both prosecution and victim where raging emotions from both sides made justice the real casualty. While Zahira, the star-witness of Teesta Setalvad in Best Bakery case, started doing press conferences after the trial court acquitted all 21 accused, saying she was threatened by the BJP leaders to lie in the court, but she made a U-turn later on and accused Teesta Setalvad herself of imprisoning and threatening her with death, if she didn’t name BJP leaders.
Note that Teesta Setalvad was given clean chit in that case. (About which no-one is outraging today).
But the real point is Left Liberal and Abrahmic eco-system’s relentless assertion: That this “Modern Day Nero” remark was supreme court’s clinching verdict against Narendra Modi’s complicity in orchestrating Gujrat riots and then protecting the perpetrators.
Completely ignoring what our left wing critics themselves keep reminding us tirelessly on other times: In a democracy, 1 person cannot be the whole government. And that was what Modi had said before and even in that infamous 3-minute interview with Mr. Thapar in 2007 as well.
Regardless, we all know what he had to suffer.
2 decades of a vicious political witch hunt, that included choicest of abuses, propaganda, lies, and ceaseless harassment. Many people have built their shining careers out of the lies being told about Narendra Modi. And he had it worse, being a government functionary in all those years, he had to face the full brunt of Freedom of Expression that doesn’t penalize citizens for speaking even most vicious and abusive lies against people running governments. He couldn’t defend himself in public because the matter was sub-judice. He had to suffer it all silently. Any lesser man might have contemplated dark options.
2 decades later, right in the middle of Nupur Sharma controversy, the same Supreme Court, whose ‘modern day nero’ remark was taken as clinching evidence of Modi’s guilt, had declared him not guilty of any wider conspiracy about Gujrat riots. Him, and 62 other people. More than that, the 3 judge bench came down hard on the likes of Setalvad, when it said:
“At the end of the day, it appears to us that a coalesced effort of the disgruntled officials of the State of Gujarat alongwith others was to create sensation by making revelations which were false to their own knowledge. The falsity of their claims had been fully exposed by the SIT after a thorough investigation. Intriguingly, the present proceedings have been pursued for last 16 years (from submission of complaint dated 8.6.2006 running into 67 pages and then by filing protest petition dated 15.4.2013 running into 514 pages) including with the audacity to question the integrity of every functionary involved in the process of exposing the devious stratagem adopted (to borrow the submission of learned counsel for the SIT), to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design. As a matter of fact, all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law.”
Notice the words: “abuse of process; making revelations which were false to their own knowledge; the falsity of which had been exposed by SIT; to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design; need to be in the dock and proceded with in accordance with law.”
Again, I don’t know whether the remark about ‘modern day Neros’ in 2004 “orally” contained references to Modi. It might’ve, it might not. The point is that it did not matter. Built upon that basic framework like UPI protocol, several people had made fat money with the outrage industry built against modi.
What did it amount to in the end?
As a 3 judge bench said, ‘abuse of process, lies to keep the pot boiling for ulterior motives, with an SC opinion stressing on the need to put such abusers in the dock.’
After such a gruesome media trial where even the top court had admitted there has been an abuse of process big enough to require putting these abusers in the dock, Narendra Modi is perfectly justified in his stance to not hold any press-conferences at all. And it’s a tragedy because our country, our democracy, is the worse for it.
2 decades later, it’s the turn of Nupur Sharma. And this time, at least verbally, it’s worse: There’s clinching fixation of responsibility put squarely on shoulders of Nupur Sharma ji as someone who’s singlehandedly responsible for what’s happening in the country, for setting the country on fire, being a security threat she is, with her loose tongue.’
I have only one question: What if she’s proven not guilty?
What if, after a fair trial (assuming there’s still a possibility of one after such extremely scathing remarks by the top court of the country), by a competent court, which, after scrutinizing all the facts of the case in careful detail, comes to the conclusion that ‘Nupur Shram is found not guilty of committing any of the offences under section 153A, 295A or whatever else they came up with.’
Who will be responsible for the latest bout of abuse and mental harassment she’s suffering now – and no doubt for years to come – because of these “oral remarks” of top court?
More importantly, who will be responsible then, for what happened in the country, if Nupur Sharma is proved not guilty of setting the country on fire – just like Narendra Modi was proved to be not a “Nero” but 20 years later?
Most importantly, would it not lower the esteem and credibility of the honorable judges of Supreme Court, and way more importantly, the credibility of the institution itself, in the minds of ordinary citizens? Won’t they suffer confusion about which court to believe? When a Supreme Court judge orally declares her guilty but another lower court, in written judgment, finds her not guilty? Would they not suffer a slightest bit of doubt that Supreme Court judges do not know what they’re talking about?
Forget Supreme Court, because citizens, normally, are more inclined to believe and retain their trust in the top court than any other lower one. Which means it’s the credibility of the trial court, and that of its judges, which’ll be at stake. Either way, at least one of the court will be proved in the public eyes to be incapable of maintaining judicial wisdom. And even one, is one too many for the Justice system in a democracy.
Conversely, it could equally be speculated, that to avoid this exact, deeply uncomfortable fate where two courts are seen at odds with each other, the trial court will try to be in sync with Supreme Court’s oral remarks, irrespective of what the evidence unearthed after investigation says about Nupur Sharma. Which again, will be a scenario where the real casualty will not be Nupur Sharma but the Justice itself. Thus, lowering public confidence in the illustrious institution.
Many people are celebrating that later on, nearly 3 weeks later, on 19 July, the court reversed its stand and allowed all FIRs against her be clubbed, transferred to Delhi and ordered protection from any coercive action against Nupur Sharma, when her advocate cited increased threats to her life after court’s oral remarks.
As always, the devil lies in the details.
For one, SC relied on the case of alleged fact-checker’s arrest in multiple FIRs, to allow clubbing of FIRs against Nupur Sharma. Keeping aside the irony, one should be forgiven to think if that hadn’t happened, then Court would’ve rejected her request, no? Which should make us wonder who, if at all, has certain ‘clout’ which honorable Justice Surya Kant mentioned while rejecting Sharma’s petition.
Second, and much more importantly, as far as that particularly troublesome SC bench’s oral remarks are concerned, the SC only expressed regret (if it could be called that) in so far as the increased threat to Nupur Shrama’s life and liberty after the oral remarks declared ‘her loose tongue setting entire country on fire.’ Even here half the responsibility is passed on to the poor woman when they said ‘perhaps you could not convey that.’
People have cheered that as some kind of victory. But they’re forgetting the main point, that is: all that is beside the point.
Because the Court hadn’t backtracked on its oral remarks about her being a security threat; her loose tongue; she should’ve apologized to the whole nation etc. etc.
Which means the possibility of the trial court to be influenced by these remarks in its ultimate judgement is still very much alive. She could still be declared guilty of blasphemy because once upon a time, an honorable SC judge had very publicly said so.
If that happens, what would be her fate? And I mean, after she’s served her jail term.
Would she suffer the fate of Salman Rushdie, or Kamlesh Tiwari – with secular approval this time?
That’s why it’s absolutely necessary for Courts to follow the due process before conferring any damning remarks on any accused that’ll follow them with the rest of their lives. At least with Narendra Modi, there were written words from the court that could be cited as “fact-check” to the unbelievers. In the case of Nupur Sharma, there’s no official record. And it’s up to everyone’s own convenience to spin it the way they like.
Today, the condition of our nation is such that left liberal eco system and Islamists are writing to CJI and urging him to expunge the actual, written words from a judgment that fixes accountability for abuse of process and/or lying and fabricating evidence in court. Urging him to make sure the court did not intend to topple their outrage industry so that they can continue their abuse of process.
But oral remarks about Nupur Sharma’s “single-handed responsibility for what’s happening in the country” are taken as gospel truth by that same crowd without any legal due process or fair trial, to hold her guilty in the eyes of public. For all the times to come.
Nupur Sharma is a marked woman for the rest of her life. Not from just the threat by blood-thirsty Islamists but also from Left-Liberal eco system.
The 1st could kill a person only once. The latter would subject a person to countless, humiliating deaths, again and again and again.
And honorable Supreme Court Judges would’ve helped in this repeat telecast of torture, providing the proverbial pitch-fork to extinguish her soul – which according to them, she was not even capable of possessing, on account of being a person “who is not religious at all.” So whatever’s inside her must be some kind of evil.
Except there’s only 1 problem with that argument.
A woman who’s practically put her life on the line for defending the honor of Shiva in that disputed gyanvapi structure, is declared by a supposedly secular institution like Supreme Court to be “not religious at all.”
But like I said, that’s the kind of reality we live in.