Amid Uproar Over SC Tearing Into Nupur Sharma, A Look at Instances When Judiciary Generated A Buzz

Several judgments and observations by courts have led to debates, discussion and uproar on social media. (Shutterstock)

Social media was abuzz with the Supreme Court’s strong oral observations against Sharma wherein the judges said her “loose tongue” has “set the entire country on fire” and she should apologise to the country

The uproar over the Supreme Court lambasting former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma for her Prophet remarks took yet another turn on Sunday as top court judge Justice JB Pardiwala, who was part of a bench that called out Sharma, criticised “personal attacks” on judges for their judgments. “Personal attacks on judges for their judgments lead to a dangerous scenario where judges have to think about what the media thinks instead of what the law really thinks,” Justice Pardiwala said.

“Rule of law is the most distinguishing feature of Indian democracy, public opinion has to be subordinate to rule of law. We’re the guardian of rights and have to tell people things they don’t like… Judicial verdicts cannot be reflections of the influence of public opinion,” the judge said while speaking on the subject of Vox Populi vs. Rule of Law at the second Justice HR Khanna Memorial National Symposium.

Justice Pardiwala’s remarks came two days after social media was abuzz with the Supreme Court’s strong oral observations against Sharma wherein the judges said her “loose tongue” has “set the entire country on fire” and she should apologise to the country.

“The way she has ignited emotions across the country, this lady is single handedly responsible for what is happening,” said Justice Surya Kant, also part of the bench. The apex court castigated Sharma for her obstinacy and arrogance and said because she was spokesperson of a party, “power has gone to her head”. The court also mentioned the brutal Udaipur murder and blamed Sharma’s remarks for the same.

Amid the social media chatter, News18 takes a look at 10 other judgments by various courts that were widely discussed:

  • Cow as National Animal? | In a matter related to a bail application, Justice Shekhar Kumar Yadav of the Allahabad High Court stated that cow should be declared as the national animal of India. Listing several virtues of the cow to further his argument, Justice Yadav’s order said: “Jab gaaye ka kalyaan hoga, tabhi desh ka kalyaan hoga (Only cow’s prosperity will ensure country’s prosperity).” In his order, the judge observed that scientists believe that cow is the only animal which inhales and exhales oxygen. “Panchgavya, which is made of cow milk, curd, ghee, urine and cow dung, helps in the treatment of several incurable diseases”, Justice Yadav observed, adding that India has traditionally been using cow ghee in yajnas for “this gives special energy to sunrays, which ultimately cause rains.”
  • “Will You Marry Her?” | The Then Chief Justice of India SA Bobde found himself at the centre of criticism when he asked a 23-year-old man accused of raping a girl when she was 16 if he would marry her. “You should have thought before seducing and raping the young girl. You know you are a government servant”, CJI Bobde asked the petitioner’s lawyer while hearing a special leave petition. “We are not forcing you to marry. Let us know if you will. Otherwise, you will say we are forcing you to marry.” As the issue led to a hue and cry, Bobde clarified that his observations were “misreported”. He said, “We never gave a suggestion that you should marry. We had asked, are you going to marry.”
  • Skin-to-Skin Contact & POCSO | Acquitting a 39-year-old accused, a single-judge Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court ruled that “groping a minor’s breast without skin to skin contact can’t be termed as sexual assault under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.” As the single bench of Justice Pushpa Ganediwala modified the order of a session court that held the accused guilty of sexual assault for groping a 12-year-old-girl and disrobing her, it led to massive outrage as many questioned the dangerous precedent it would set. Later, the Supreme Court cancelled the order, describing it as a “narrow interpretation of the law”.
  • ‘Talented’ Student Accused of Rape Gets Bail | The Gauhati High Court granted bail to an IIT B.Tech student accused of sexually assaulting a fellow student, after observing that he is a “talented, young student and a future asset to the state” of Assam. Justice Ajit Borthakur said that there was a “clear prima facie case” against the accused, but there is “no possibility” for him to influence witnesses or tamper with the evidence as the investigation is complete.
  • ‘Unbecoming of Indian Woman’ | Granting advance bail to a rape accused, the Karnataka High Court in June 2020 expressed its reservations about the genuineness of the complainant’s case while observing that her explanation that “after the perpetration of the act she was tired and fell asleep, is unbecoming of an Indian woman”. The court also found it difficult to believe at this stage that the complainant was subjected to rape on the false promise of marriage “in the given circumstances of the case”.
  • Bhanwari Devi Case | The 1992 sexual assault case from Rajasthan led to massive outrage due to the controversial statement made by the judge. Bhanwari Devi, who belonged to the Kumhar (potter) caste and worked as saathin (friend) for the state government’s Women’s Development Programme (WDP), alleged that she was raped by five men belonging to the affluent Gujjar caste. A trial court in 1995 ruled that Bhanwari was not raped as “an upper-caste man could not have defiled himself by raping a lower-caste woman.” The judge made some other remarks such as a village head cannot rape, men of aged 60 to 70 cannot rape, and a man cannot possibly indulge in a heinous crime of that nature in front of his own relatives (two of the accused were uncle and nephew in relation).
  • ‘Tie A Rakhi’ | The Madhya Pradesh High Court’s Indore Bench directed a victim of sexual harassment to “tie a rakhi” on the wrist of her alleged perpetrator. The accused was directed to resolve the conflict by visiting the residence of the complainant with a “box of sweets” and a “promise to protect her to the best of his ability for all times to come.” The accused was also asked to pay an amount of Rs 11,000 to the complainant “as a customary ritual, usually offered by the brothers to sisters on such an occasion and shall also seek her blessings”. The order was widely criticised as making light of a heinous crime.
  • ‘Not All Insulting Remarks to SC/ST Persons Are Offences’ | Insulting remarks made to a person belonging to Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes within four walls of the house with no witnesses does not amount to offence, the Supreme Court said last month as it quashed the charges under the SC/ST Act against a man who had allegedly abused a woman within her building. The top court said that “all insults or intimidations to a person will not be an offence under the SC/ST Act unless such insult or intimidation is on account of victim belonging to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe”. This was condemned by caste activists who pointed out that not all insults are made public for the precise reason that it’d attract attention when the complainant is of a lower-caste than the perpetrator.
  • ‘Right to Protest Not Absolute’ | The right to protest is not absolute and there cannot be a “universal policy”, the Supreme Court said while hearing a bunch of petitions on the anti-CAA (Citizenship (Amendment) Act) protests, which led to the blockage of key roads in Shaheen Bagh in Delhi. “Right to protest is not absolute, but there is a right… In a parliamentary democracy, there is always an avenue of debate. Protests can be done peacefully,” Justice SK Kaul said.
  • Forced Oral Sex Doesn’t Qualify as ‘Aggravated Sexual Assault’ | The Allahabad High Court reduced the sentence of a convict who forced a child to perform oral sex from 10 years to 7 years, stating that the crime committed is ‘less serious’. The high court clarified that inserting a penis into a child’s mouth comes in the category of ‘penetrative sexual assault’ which is punishable under Section 4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) Act and not under Section 6 of the Act. “…it is clear that offence committed by appellant neither falls under Section 5/6 of POCSO Act nor under Section 9(M) of POCSO Act because there is penetrative sexual assault in the present case as the appellant has put his penis into mouth of victim. Putting penis into mouth does not fall in the category of aggravated sexual assault or sexual assault. It comes into category of penetrative sexual assault which is punishable under Section 4 of POCSO Act,” the court noted.

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