The Supreme Court on Monday said no coercive action can be taken against Times Now news anchor Navika Kumar in a case related to the remarks made by suspended Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nupur Sharma about Prophet Muhammad, reported Bar and Bench.
Sharma made the comments on May 26 during a Times Now debate, which was moderated by Kumar. The comments had led to a spate of violence and unrest across several parts of the country in June.
The news channel distanced itself from Sharma’s comments on May 27.
First information reports have been filed against Kumar in Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir for outraging religious feelings.
At Monday’s hearing, a bench of Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli issued notices to states, preventing action.
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Kumar, told the court that the news anchor did not make any disparaging comments.
“Suddenly one contestant started speaking, other contested retorted,” Rohtagi said, according to Live Law. “Petitioner did not say anything. She in fact doused the fire by saying we have to go by the Constitution.”
The lawyer said that six first information reports have been registered against Kumar in Kolkata alone.
“What is the special interest of the state of West Bengal in this matter?” Rohatgi asked.
To this, Senior Advocate Dr Menaka Guruswamy, appearing for West Bengal, replied: “Because the State of West Bengal takes hate speech seriously.”
When Rohatgi sought a stay on the proceedings against Kumar, Justice Kohli said that other respondents should appear before the court first.
The court then granted relief to Kumar and posted the matter for hearing after two weeks.
On July 19, Sharma was granted interim protection from arrest by the Supreme Court in the cases filed against her.
Notably, on July 1, a bench headed by Justice Surya Kant at the Supreme Court said that Sharma should have apologised to the country for her remarks.
The judges had also orally said that Sharma was single-handedly responsible for the tensions in the country and that being a spokesperson of a national political party does not give anyone the liberty to speak “such disturbing things”.
“These are not religious people at all, they make statements to provoke,” the judges said while asking Sharma to approach the High Courts.