Supreme Court judge Justice JB Pardiwala, who was part of a bench that came down heavily on former Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nupur Sharma, on Sunday said that personal attacks on judges can lead to a “dangerous scenario”, Live Law reported.
In May, Sharma had made disparaging remarks about Prophet Muhammad during a debate on Times Now television channel. Her remarks led to a spate of violence and unrest across several parts of the country.
On July 1, Pardiwala along with Justice Surya Kant said that Sharma was single-handedly responsible for the tensions and that she should have apologised to the nation. Sharma, who was suspended after India faced a diplomatic outrage from a number of Gulf countries, had approached the Supreme Court to club the multiple first information reports registered against her across the country.
The judges dismissed her plea, saying that “the conscience of this court is not satisfied”.
They also asked Sharma’s counsel, senior advocate Maninder Singh, “What is her business to make these remarks?”
The Supreme Court’s oral observations received flak on social media. A plea was also filed demanding that the observations made against Sharma be withdrawn, The News Minute reported.
On Sunday, Justice Pardiwala said at an event in Delhi that personal attacks on judges makes them think “about what the media thinks instead of what the law thinks”, reported Live Law.
“Social and digital media is primarily resorted to expressing personalised opinions more against the judges, rather than a constructive critical appraisal of their judgements,” he said. “This is what is harming the judicial institution and lowering its dignity.”
The remedy of judgements lies with the higher courts, he added, and not the social media.
“In India which cannot be defined as a completely mature or defined democracy, social media is employed frequently to politicise purely legal and constitutional issues,” Justice Pardiwala said, adding that Parliament must regulate social and digital media, especially in sub-judice trials in sensitive cases.
He said he is a firm believer of the rule of law and that the public opinion does not matter when it comes to judicial verdicts, reported Live Law.
The judge said that media trials were an “undue interference” for the judiciary as they crossed the “Laxman Rekha”.
Citing the Ayodhya case as an example, he said:
“It was a land and title dispute but by the time the final verdict came to be delivered, the issue attained political overtones. It was conveniently forgotten that someday or the other some judge had to decide the contentious civil dispute which was indisputably the oldest litigation pending in the court of the country running into thousands of pages. This is where the heart of any judicial proceeding before the constitutional court may disappear and the judges deciding the dispute may get a bit shaken, which is antithetic to the rule of law. This is not healthy for the rule of law.”— NDTV
A Ram temple is coming up at the site in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992 by Hindutva extremists who were mobilised under the BJP’s Ram Janmabhoomi movement. In November 2019, the Supreme Court in a landmark judgement held the demolition was illegal but handed over the land to a government-run trust for the construction of the temple. In August 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the temple.