The Supreme Court on Wednesday transferred all FIRs registered against former BJP Spokesperson Nupur Sharma in different parts of the country over her remarks on Prophet Mohammed to the Delhi Police. The order will extend to any FIR or complaint which may be registered against her in future with respect to the comments made on the channel debate aired by "Times Now" on May 26.
The Court also granted her liberty to approach the Delhi High Court for seeking the relief of quashing the FIRs, opining that a part of cause of action had arisen in Delhi.
The bench of Justices Surya Kant and JB Pardiwala also turned down a proposal made by the State of West Bengal through Senior Advocate Menaka Guruswamy for a joint Special Investigation Team to investigate the matter under the monitoring of the Court. The bench said that the FIR in Delhi has been registered by the Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit of the Delhi Police, which is a specialized agency, and suggested that the investigation is carried out by IFSO. The bench also said that the IFSO will be at liberty to collect information from other States for the purposes of the investigation.
The bench also extended the interim protection that it had granted to Sharma on July 19 till the completion of the Investigation.
Guruswamy also objected to the transfer of FIRs to Delhi by saying that the first FIR against the petitioner was registered in Mumbai. She submitted that the FIR projected in the petition as the first FIR was in fact registered on a complaint by Sharma against unknown persons over threats received after the telecast. Guruswamy argued that the accused cannot be allowed to pick the jurisdiction and the principle to be followed is to club with the first FIR which has been registered against the accused.
"The accused cannot be allowed to pick the jurisdiction. And the maximum impact of her statements is caused in West Bengal. First FIR was in Maharashtra and the state where the maximum impact has been felt is West Bengal. Delhi is not on the list. I don't understand why my friend is pushing for Delhi. Consider the nature of the issue which has caused an impact on our democracy and tainted the rule of law. And some states are supporting the petitioner", Guruswamy submitted.
Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that the Court's intervention is sought on the extraordinary situation caused by the life threats received by Sharma following the telecast. He said that even after the last order of the Supreme Court, fresh FIRs were registered against Sharma in West Bengal.
"The FIR at Delhi is by Delhi police IFSO, it is a special unit. The character of investigation will not change because I have filed it. Admittedly, the FIR filed by me with respect to the same episode is the first FIR", Singh submitted. The senior counsel referred to the recent order passed by the Supreme Court in the case of Mohammed Zubair, where the relief of clubbing and trasnferring of multiple FIRs was granted.
The bench transferred all FIRs to Delhi, considering the particular facts and circumstances.
" We direct that all the FIRs be transferred and clubbed for the purpose of investigation to Delhi Police. The Delhi Police shall ensure that the first FIR (of Maharashtra) along with FIR dated 8 June are investigated together by clubbing the other FIRs in different parts. Whether or not a SIT is to be constituted for the investigation, IFSO of Delhi Police appears to be a specialized agency and it will be appreciated it the investigation is done by it. The IFSO will be at liberty to collect information from other states for it to reach a logical conclusion. Directions issued hereinabove shall also extend to any other FIR or complaint which may be registered against the petitioner in future on the same subject matter, and the investigation of future FIRs shall also stand transferred to IFSO unit of Delhi police. Petitioner will be at liberty to approach the Delhi High Court for other reliefs under Article 226 or Section 482 in respect to the FIRs already registered or which may be registered in future," the bench said in its order.
On July 19, the bench had granted interim protection to Sharma from coercive action in the FIRs.
Court room exchange
At the outset, Senior Advocate Maninder Singh for Sharma submitted that she was receiving summons from the West Bengal police even after the filing of the additional affidavit.
Remarking that the bench was not inclined to look into the merits of the allegations, Justice Surya Kant the presiding judge of the bench asked if any FIR was registered against Sharma pursuant to Top Court's order dated July 19, 2022.
Responding in the affirmative, Singh said, "We have gotten to know of two more." Referring to the ratio laid down by the Court in Mohammad Zubair's case, he further said, "In terms of principles laid down by your lordship, first FIR will continue and the second will tag along." To further convince the bench, Singh submitted that there was threat to Sharma's life.
The bench at this juncture said that it would club all the FIR's registered against Sharma with the FIR registered in Delhi and direct the continuation of the investigation in the first FIR.
"We will club the FIRs with Delhi FIR. Investigation will continue in first FIR and further FIRs will be clubbed," Justice Kant said.
Objecting to the bench clubbing the FIR's with the FIR filed in Delhi, Senior Advocate Maneka Guruswamy appearing for the State of West Bengal submitted that the first FIR which was mentioned in the petition was filed by Sharma against unknown person (wherein she was the complainant) and that she was an accused in the other FIR's registered against her. She further submitted that Sharma could not be allowed to pick the jurisdiction as the first FIR wherein she was an accused was registered in Maharashtra and that the maximum impact of her statements was caused in West Bengal.
"The first FIR in which the petitioner is an accused is in Maharashtra. Respectfully, either it is the principle of the first FIR against the accused. The accused cannot be allowed to pick the jurisdiction. And the maximum impact of her statements is caused in West Bengal. The maximum impact, crisis and outrage has been caused in West Bengal. Should we create a situation today where the accused is allowed to pick jurisdiction? First FIR was in Maharashtra and the state where the maximum impact has been felt is West Bengal. Delhi is not on the list. I don't understand why my friend is pushing for Delhi," Senior Counsel added.
"The FIR is a by Delhi police IFSO, it is a special unit. The character of investigation will not change because I have filed it. Admittedly, the FIR filed by me with respect to the same episode is the first FIR," Singh submitted.
While the bench started to dictate the order, Senior Advocate Maneka Guruswamy suggested the bench to constitute a joint Special Investigation Team ("SIT"). She further said that Sharma was indulging in forum shopping as her earlier plea seeking clubbing of FIR's was rejected by the bench. She also added that in compliance with the order dated July 19, the State would give maximum security.
To further substantiate her contention she said, "Court may monitor, investigative agency must have a free atmosphere.Consider the nature of the issue which has caused an impact on our democracy. And some states are supporting the petitioner. Her statements have tainted the rule of law and vitiated the atmosphere. The Court as a moral authority can look into this. My friends have not come with clean hands."
Turning down Senior Counsel's suggestions, Justice Kant said that the Court had was compelled to intervene due to the threats to her life and that constitution of SIT would create an "undue pressure"
"We would've agreed but we have been compelled to intervene..we had mentioned the threats to her. So we had a change of mind. Let's not create a situation where you are under stress, they are under stress and the whole system is under stress. We were of the view that it is for the High Court to quash the FIRs. We are consolidating the FIRs in view of a grave circumstance. Even for the SIT, there will have to be one agency. Even as a HC judge, I was against Court monitoring, it will create undue pressure," Justice Kant said.
The relief was granted in Sharma's application to revive her withdrawn writ petition which was filed to club the multiple FIRs registered in different states over her remarks on Prophet Mohammed. She had also sought a stay of arrest in the cases as interim relief. In the Miscellaneous Application filed to re-open the writ petition, Sharma has said that she is receiving rape and death threats after the Court's critical comments against her on July 1.
Nupur Sharma had withdrawn her petition on July 1 following the critical remarks by a vacation bench comprising Justices Surya Kant and JB Pardiwala against her public comments, which the bench said "set the whole country on fire". Sharma's writ petition had sought the clubbing of the FIRs registered in the States of Maharashtra, Telangana, West Bengal, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Assam and the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir with the FIR registered by the Delhi Police.
Case Details : NV Sharma vs Union of India| MA 001238 - / 2022 in WP(Crl) 239/2022