The Supreme Court today order that no coercive action can be taken against Times Now news anchor Navika Kumar in connection with cases registered against her for a show in which former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma made derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad.
The Bench of Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli also issued notice to the State of West Bengal and others in the case, which will be heard after two weeks.
Appearing for Kumar, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi submitted at the outset,
"...anchor said nothing. Debate was about Gyanvapi Mosque and suddenly one said something and then another retorted. Ms Kumar doused the fire."
He also questioned the "extra interest" of the West Bengal government, given that the first FIR against Kumar was registered in Kolkata.
To this, Senior Advocate Menaka Guruswamy, appearing for West Bengal, replied that the State government took hate speech seriously.
When Rohatgi sought a stay on the proceedings against Kumar, Justice Kohli said,
"Let the other respondents also appear. As of now this should serve your purpose."
Kumar, who has been booked in Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir, moved the apex court seeking quashing of the cases or clubbing of the same and transfer to one state.
The Supreme Court had already issued notice on a similar plea by Nupur Sharma after first information reports (FIRs) were registered against her in different parts of the country for her remarks on Prophet Muhammad.
Sharma's controversial remarks on the Times Now debate had created a furore and even led to some Islamic nations summoning Indian ambassadors and high commissioners.
The ruling BJP government had distanced itself from Sharma and also suspended her.
During the initial hearing of Sharma's petition on July 1, the Supreme Court had refused to entertain the plea and made strong remarks against her.
The Bench had remarked that Sharma was single-handedly responsible for fanning flames across India and that she should apologise to the whole nation.
During that hearing, the top court had also made strong remarks against Times Now.
"What was the TV debate for? Only to fan a agenda? Why did they choose a sub judice topic?" the apex court had demanded.
Sharma had then withdrawn her plea. Subsequently, she moved the Court again, which then issued notice on July 19 and granted her interim protection from arrest.