Nupur Sharma,  Teesta Setalvad
Nupur Sharma, Teesta Setalvad. Image: Onmanorama

Opinion | Scales of justice doing a balancing act?

On Friday, the Supreme Court reportedly castigated a former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma for approaching the court at all in preference to moving the lower courts in the matter of clubbing various FIRs against her in the context of her controversial remarks on Prophet Muhammad

The SC observed that contrary to what Nupur petitioned, a central point being her endangered existence, she is the real security threat — to the nation — as the remarks she made in a TV debate in May led to widespread violence.

One of the end results of that debate was the murder earlier this week of a tailor in Rajasthan by two Muslims. Nupur’s privileged position, too, came in for criticism. The SC reportedly said, according to The Times of India: 'When she makes a complaint, the person is arrested. But even when there is an FIR against her, she is not touched.’

To a neutral person, these observations by the country's final authority on what is true or false, or right or wrong, come across as fair. And one would imagine this upright and rather upbraiding stand of the SC is not just a balancing act for its independence and dignity as the apparatus of a hardening country, perhaps hardening as a Hindu State.

When she makes a complaint, the person is arrested. But even when there is an FIR against her, she is not touched.

Supreme Court of India

But only last week, as reported by Outlook online on June 29, "...a day after the Supreme Court upheld the clean chit given to then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 riots case, the Gujarat anti-terror squad ATS arrested Mumbai-based activist Teesta Setalvad on Saturday. The arrest also came hours after Union Minister Amit Shah said in an interview that an NGO run by Setalvad had given the police unsubstantiated information regarding the riots in Gujarat." The NGO that was being run by her, Amit Shah said, “had given baseless information about the riots to the police."

Teesta Setalvad. File photo

The Print on June 26 quoted the Zakia Jafri judgment — classic in its thoroughness in exposition and adjudication — implicating Teesta Setalvad, and former police officers Sanjiv Bhatt and R B Sreekumar: "After cogitating over the matter, we uphold the decision of the Magistrate in accepting the stated final report dated 8.2.2012 submitted by the SIT, as it is and rejecting the protest petition filed by the appellant. We do not countenance the submission of the appellant regarding infraction of rule of law in the matter of investigation and the approach of the Magistrate and the High Court in dealing with the final report."

The media reported that the SIT arrested Setalvad and two others — former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt and former DGP RB Sreekumar — following the apex court’s observation that some people kept “the pot boiling” of the case “for ulterior design” and “all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with the law.” And the SIT duly arrested the three.

Former police officer Sanjiv Bhatt

Was it necessary, though? The Gujarat administration in the times of the Godhra riots was headed by the present prime minister. The SC gave him a clean chit, and the case closed. Was it then absolutely necessary to put the three activists in jail for it, though of course, Bhatt has been long a resident behind bars? Could not Teesta, for example, be chided, warned, even threatened not to repeat the folly? Where a reprimand might have sufficed, we have brought into play the whole oiled rack.

The media has been campaigning for the release of Teesta and her friends, further besmirching the Indian government’s reputation to the self-styled champions of democracy, the West and its secular sacraments like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Guardian, none of which will campaign, say, for a Julian Assange or an Edward Snowdon.

(C P Surendran is an author and senior journalist. Views are personal)

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