The All India Bar Association has written a letter urging Chief Justice of India N V Ramana not to take cognizance of a letter petition which has sought withdrawal of adverse remarks made by a Supreme Court bench against suspended BJP leader Nupur Sharma.
A vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and J B Pardiwala had on July 1 severely reprimanded Sharma for her comments against Prophet Mohammed, saying her "loose tongue" has "set the entire country on fire" and that she was "singlehandedly responsible for what is happening in the country".
"During the course of hearing, the judges engage with counsels. They don't maintain sphinx-like silence. While engaging with counsel, it is natural for judges to open up and make observations and suggestions. The question of expunging observations, even if irrelevant, shouldn't arise since these remarks are only observations without any precedential value," the bar body said in the letter to Ramana.
The AIBA's letter came on the heels of a group of 15 former high court judges and bureaucrats demanding that the Supreme Court recall its observations against Sharma, alleging that the court had crossed the "Laxman Rekha" while making comments that are an "indelible scar on the justice system of the largest democracy".
The group, comprising 15 high court judges, 77 ex-all India services officers and 25 veterans, has alleged that the "unfortunate" comments are not in sync with the judicial ethos and have sent "shockwaves" in the country and outside.
"In the annals of the 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," they said in a signed statement.
The 117 signatories include former chief justice of the Bombay High Court Kshitij Vyas, former Kerala High Court judge P N Ravindran, former Gujarat High Court judge S M Soni, former Rajasthan High Court judges R S Rathore and Prashant Agarwal and former Delhi High Court judge S N Dhingra.
Former IAS officers Anand Bose, R S Gopalan and S Krishna Kumar, ambassador (retired) Niranjan Desai, former DGPs S P Vaid and B L Vohra, Lt Gen V K Chaturvedi (retired) and Air Marshall (retired) S P Singh have also signed the statement.
"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," the letter said.
Noting that Sharma sought access to the justice system before the highest court, the statement said the court's observations have no connect jurisprudentially with the issue raised in the petition and "transgressed in an unprecedented manner all canons of the dispensation of justice".
The signatories also defended Sharma's plea for clubbing all FIRs against her citing previous orders of the apex court. "One fails to understand why Nupur's case is treated at a different pedestal. Such an approach of the Supreme Court deserves no applause and impacts the very sanctity and honour of the highest court of the land," the letter said.
"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 the issue raised in the petition, can never be a facet of a democratic society," it is claimed.