Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Surya Kant and JB Pardiwala, JJ has, in a relief to politician and lawyer Nupur Sharma, has transferred all the FIRs filed against her in Prophet Remark case to the IFSO Unit of the Delhi Police for the purpose of investigation.

The Court also clarified that the directions in the present order will also extend to any other FIRs/complaints which may be registered/entertained against Nupur Sharma in future in respect of the same subject matter. Should such an eventuality arise, the investigation of those FIRs/complaints shall also stand transferred to the IFSO Unit of the Delhi Police for the purpose of investigation.

When it was urged before the Court that the nature of the case is such that a specialized and specific approach is necessary and it would be appropriate to form an SIT to collectively investigate the various FIRs, the Court observed that since the IFSO Unit of Delhi Police is itself a specialized agency, it will be enough, at this stage, to direct the IFSO Unit to investigate all the FIRs/complaints. The IFSO Unit of the Delhi Police shall be at liberty to collect and gather any information from the State Agencies if so required, for the purpose of conducting a thorough investigation and taking it to its logical conclusion.

The Court also extended the interim directions issued by it on 7 19.07.2022 till further orders. It had directed that no coercive action shall be taken against Nupur Sharma pursuant to the impugned FIR(s)/complaint(s) or the FIR(s)/complaint(s) which may be registered/entertained in the future pertaining to the telecast dated 26.05.2022 on Times Now.

Nupur Sharma, who has been accused of hurting religious feelings, was the National spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party until June 2022 after which she was suspended from the party due to controversial comments about the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his third wife.

[N.V. Sharma v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1003, order dated 10.08.2022]

For Petitioner(s) Mr. Maninder Singh, Sr. Adv. Mr. ANS Nandkarni, Sr. Adv. Ms. Rachitta Rai, AOR Mr. Pandey Sangeet Rai, Adv. Mr. Manan Popli, Adv. Mr. Shaunak Kashyap, Adv. Mr. Vivek Kadyan, Adv. Ms. Deepti Arya, Adv. Mr. Prabhas Bajaj, Adv. Mr. Santosh Salvador, Adv.

For Respondent(s) Mr. Tushar Mehta, S.G. Ms. Garima Prasad, AAG Mr. Rahul Chitnis, Adv. Mr. Siddharth Dharmadhikari, Adv. Mr. Chirag Shah, Adv. Mr. Utsav Trivedi, Adv. Mr. Abhikalp Pratap Singh, Adv. Mr. Aaditya A. Pande, Adv. Mr. Geo Joseph, Adv. Ms. Shwetal Shepal, Adv. Mr. Arvind Kumar Sharma, AOR Mr. Sachin Patil, AOR Ms. Taruna Ardhendumauli Prasad, AOR Mr. Amritesh Raj, Adv. Ms. Shreya Srivastava, Adv. Mr. Ashish Madaan, Adv. Ms. Ananya Sahu, Adv. Ms. Ruchira Goel, AOR Mr. Shantanu Singh, Adv. Mr. Ravi Sehgal, Adv. Dr. Menaka Guruswamy, Sr. Adv. Mr. Suhaan Mukerji, Adv. Mr. Abhishek Manchanda, Adv. Mr. Sayandeep Pahari, Adv. Mr. Vishal Prasad, Adv. Mr. Yash S. Vijay, Adv. Mr. Utkarsh Pratap, Adv. Mr. Tanmay Sinha, Adv. M/S. PLR Chambers and Co., AOR Mr. Shubanshu Padhi, Adv. Mr. Ashish Yadav, Adv. Mr. Vishal Bansal, Adv. Ms. Rajeshwari Shanker, Adv. Mr. S. Udaya Kumar Sagar, Adv. Ms. Bina Madhavan, Adv. Mr. Sweena Nair, Adv. Mr. Shuvodeep Roy, AOR Mr. Arnab Singh Dev, Adv.

Also read:

Prophet Remark Row| Here’s why Supreme Court has stayed Nupur Sharma’s arrest for now

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a big relief to Alt News Co-founder and fact checker Mohammed Zubair, the 3-judge bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud*, Surya Kant and AS Bopanna, JJ has directed that Zubair will continue to remain enlarged on bail, subject to his filing a personal release bond in the amount of Rs 20,000 with respect to 6 FIRs filed against him at various places. The Court observed that,

“The criminal law and its processes ought not to be instrumentalized as a tool of harassment.”

Most of the FIRs implicate offences (Sections 153A, 295A and 298 IPC and Section 67 IT Act) which are punishable for up to three years’ imprisonment. It has been alleged that Zubair has hurt religious feelings through his tweets. It is also important note that certain dormant FIRs from 2021 were activated as certain new FIRs were registered.

The 6 FIRs filed in Ghaziabad, Chandauli, Lakhimpur, Sitapur, Hathras have also been transferred from the Uttar Pradesh Police to the Special Cell of the Delhi Police, thereby disbanding the SIT formed by the Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh on 10 July 2022. If any other related FIR is filed against Zubair then the same will also be transferred to the Special Cell of the Delhi Police and Zubair shall be entitled to the order of interim bail.

As far as the FIR registered at Muzaffarnagar is concerned wherein the charge-sheet under Section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 has been filed, the Court transferred the proceedings to the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Patiala House Courts and directed the matter is to be taken up from the stage that has reached before the earlier Court. The petitioner has been enlarged on bail. The order enlarging the petitioner on bail shall continue to remain in force.

Criminal Justice system being used as a tool of harassment

Unhappy with the acts of the Police in the case, the Court went on to observed that the machinery of criminal justice has been relentlessly employed against Zubair.

Despite the fact that the same tweets allegedly gave rise to similar offences in the diverse FIRs mentioned above, the petitioner was subjected to multiple investigations across the country. Consequently, he would be required to hire multiple advocates across districts, file multiple applications for bail, travel to multiple districts spanning two states for the purposes of investigation, and defend himself before multiple courts, all with respect to substantially the same alleged cause of action.”

Resultantly, the Court noticed that Zubair has been trapped in a vicious cycle of the criminal process where the process has itself become the punishment.

The Court, hence, observed that,

“The Arrest is not meant to be and must not be used as a punitive tool because it results in one of the gravest possible consequences emanating from criminal law: the loss of personal liberty. Individuals must not be punished solely on the basis of allegations, and without a fair trial. When the power to arrest is exercised without application of mind and without due regard to the law, it amounts to an abuse of power.”

Stating that the Police Officers are expected to apply their mind to the case before them, the Court said that the criminal law and its processes ought not to be instrumentalized as a tool of harassment. Section 41 of the CrPC as well as the safeguards in criminal law exist in recognition of the reality that any criminal proceeding almost inevitably involves the might of the state, with unlimited resources at its disposal, against a lone individual.

Gag order directing Zubair not to tweet unwarranted

When the State of Uttar Pradesh attempted to persuade this Court that the petitioner must be barred from tweeting when he is on bail, the Court held that merely because the complaints filed against the petitioner arise from posts that were made by him on a social media platform, a blanket anticipatory order preventing him from tweeting cannot be made.

“A blanket order directing the petitioner to not express his opinion – an opinion that he is rightfully entitled to hold as an active participating citizen – would be disproportionate to the purpose of imposing conditions on bail. The imposition of such a condition would tantamount to a gag order against the petitioner. Gag orders have a chilling effect on the freedom of speech.”

Noticing that Zubair is a journalist who is the co-founder of a fact checking website and he uses Twitter as a medium of communication to dispel false news and misinformation in this age of morphed images, clickbait, and tailored videos, the Court held that passing an order restricting him from posting on social media would amount to an unjustified violation of the freedom of speech and expression, and the freedom to practice his profession.

The observations came after it was noted that the bail conditions imposed by the Court must not only have a nexus to the purpose that they seek to serve but must also be proportional to the purpose of imposing them. The courts while imposing bail conditions must balance the liberty of the accused and the necessity of a fair trial. While doing so, conditions that would result in the deprivation of rights and liberties must be eschewed.

[Mohammed Zubair v. State of NCT of Delhi, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 897, order dated 20.07.2022]


For Petitioner(s): Advocates Vrinda Grover, Soutik Banerjee, Mannat Tipnis, Devika Tulsiani and Aakarsh Kamra

For Respondent(s): AAG Garima Prashad, Advocates Adarsh Upadhyay, Harsh Mishra, Aman Pathak

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Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: After politician and lawyer Nupur Sharma approached the Court claiming that there is an imminent necessity for the Court to intervene and protect her life and liberty as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, the bench of Surya Kant and JB Pardiwala, JJ has directed that no coercive action shall be taken against her pursuant to the impugned FIR(s)/complaint(s) or the FIR(s)/complaint(s) which may be registered/entertained in the future pertaining to the telecast dated 26.05.2022 on Times Now.

Nupur Sharma told the Court that:

  • One Salman Chisti claiming to be a Khadim of Ajmer Dargah has circulated a video whereby in a very disturbing manner he has called upon for cutting her throat.
  • One resident of Uttar Pradesh, has made a viral video using abusive language against her and threatened to behead her;
  • Some more FIRs have been registered in the State of West Bengal which were earlier not in her knowledge; and
  • The Kolkata Police has issued a ‘lookout circular’ dated 02.07.2022 due to which she apprehends her immediate arrest and consequential denial of fair opportunity to approach different High Courts for seeking quashing of the FIRs.

During the course of hearing, the Court was apprised of two more instances where there is a serious threat to Nupur Sharma’s life and these instances are reported to have taken place after filing of the miscellaneous application.

Taking note of all this, the Court observed that its concern is to ensure that the petitioner is able to avail the appropriate remedy as permitted by the Court vide order dated 01.07.2022. Hence, notice has been issued to the respondents returnable on 10.08.2022. Meanwhile, as an interim measure, the Court directed that no coercive action shall be taken against Nupur Sharma pursuant to the impugned FIR(s)/complaint(s) or the FIR(s)/complaint(s) which may be registered/entertained in the future.

Nupur Sharma, who has been accused of hurting religious feelings, was the National spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party until June 2022 after which she was suspended from the party due to controversial comments about the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his third wife.

[N.V. Sharma v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 895, order dated 19.07.2022]


For Petitioner: Senior Advocates Maninder Singh and ANS Nadkarni, Advocates Rachitta Rai, Pandey Sangeet Rai, Manan Popli, Shaunak Kashyap, Vivek Kadyan

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a big relief to Alt News Co-founder and fact checker Mohammed Zubair, the 3-judge bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant and AS Bopanna, JJ has directed that Zubair will continue to remain enlarged on bail, subject to his filing a personal release bond in the amount of Rs 20,000 with respect to 6 FIRs filed against him at various places.

Most of the FIRs implicate offences (Sections 153A, 295A and 298 IPC and Section 67 IT Act) which are punishable for up to three years’ imprisonment. It has been alleged that Zubair has hurt religious feelings through his tweets.

The 6 FIRs filed in Ghaziabad, Chandauli, Lakhimpur, Sitapur, Hathras have also been transferred from the Uttar Pradesh Police to the Special Cell of the Delhi Police, thereby disbanding the SIT formed by the Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh on 10 July 2022. If any other related FIR is filed against Zubair then the same will also be transferred to the Special Cell of the Delhi Police and Zubair shall be entitled to the order of interim bail.

Zubair will also be at liberty to pursue his rights and remedies in proceedings under Article 226 of the Constitution/ Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 in respect of the FIRs which have been or which may be registered against him before the High Court of Delhi.

The Court directed that the bail bonds in compliance with the directions shall be presented before the Chief Judicial Magistrate at the Patiala House Courts, Delhi. Zubair was directed to be released from Tihar Jail immediately after the presentation of the bail bonds.

As far as the FIR registered at Muzaffarnagar is concerned wherein the charge-sheet under Section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 has been filed, the Court transferred the proceedings to the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Patiala House Courts and directed the matter is to be taken up from the stage that has reached before the earlier Court. The petitioner has been enlarged on bail. The order enlarging the petitioner on bail shall continue to remain in force.

It is important to note that Zubair has been granted regular bail on 15 July 2022 by the Additional Sessions Judge, Patiala House Courts, Delhi in connection with one FIR dated 20 June 2022 lodged in Delhi. Also, he was directed to be enlarged on interim bail by an order dated 8 July 2022 passed by the Supreme Court in connection with FIR dated 1 June 2022 lodged at District Sitapur.

[Mohammed Zubair v. State of NCT of Delhi, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 897, order dated 20.07.2022]


For Petitioner(s): Advocates Vrinda Grover, Soutik Banerjee, Mannat Tipnis, Devika Tulsiani and Aakarsh Kamra

For Respondent(s): AAG Garima Prashad, Advocates Adarsh Upadhyay, Harsh Mishra, Aman Pathak

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: When the matter relating to multiple FIRs being registered against Alt-New co-founder and fact checker Mohammed Zubair was urgently mentioned before the bench of Dr. Dy Chandrachud and AS Bopanna, JJ, the Court listed the matter for hearing on July 20, 2022 but directed that,

“no precipitate steps shall be taken against the petitioner in connection with any of the five FIRs which have been extracted above, without the leave of this Court.”

 The grievance before the Supreme Court is that multiple FIRs have being registered against Zubair on essentially the same subject matter in different police stations. Most of the FIRs implicate offences (Sections 153A, 295A and 298 IPC and Section 67 IT Act) which are punishable for up to three years’ imprisonment. It has been alleged that Zubair’s tweets and facts checks have not only mocked journalists but also hurt religious sentiments.

It is important to note that Zubair has been granted regular bail on 15 July 2022 by the Additional Sessions Judge, Patiala House Courts, Delhi in connection with one FIR dated 20 June 2022 lodged in Delhi. Also, he was directed to be enlarged on interim bail by an order dated 8 July 2022 passed by the Supreme Court in connection with another FIR dated 1 June 2022 lodged at District Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh for a period of five days. The order has since been extended, pending further orders of this Court. Zubair has also been directed to be produced before the Court at Hathras in Uttar Pradesh.

[Mohammed Zubair v. State of NCT of Delhi, WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) Diary No.21492/2022, order dated 18.07.2022]


Counsels

For Petitioner(s): Advocates Vrinda Grover, Soutik Banerjee, Mannat Tipnis, Devika Tulsiani and Aakarsh Kamra

For Respondent(s): SG Tushar Mehta, Advocates Kanu Agarwal and Swati Ghildiyal