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Gehlot slams remarks against SC judges over Nupur Sharma observation, in presence of CJI

Jaipur: Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Saturday deprecated attacks on Supreme Court justices over their observations against suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma for her remarks on Prophet Mohammad, saying an “issue” was created when the two judges expressed their views.

He was referring to the observations made by a Supreme Court bench of Justice J B Pardiwala and Justice Surya Kant which had on July 1 rebuked Sharma for her “disturbing” remarks against the Prophet Mohammad.

The bench had said Sharma’s remarks led to unfortunate incidents and ignited emotions across the country.

Gehlot said on Saturday the Supreme Court judges had expressed their views about the condition in the country but an “issue” was created.

“Recently Justice Pardiwala and Justice Surya Kant had said something. It is our duty to respect the judiciary. 116 people were made to stand (against the judges), including former high court and Supreme Court judges, bureaucracy, and officers. Don’t know who they were? How it was managed and who managed it and an issue was created in the country,” Gehlot said.

He was addressing the inaugural session of the 18th All India Legal Services Authority in Jaipur, attended by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana, other judges of the Supreme Court, and those from different high courts.

Gehlot’s mention of “116 people” was probably a reference to a group of former judges and bureaucrats who earlier this month had demanded that the SC recall its observations against Nupur Sharma, alleging the court crossed the “Laxman Rekha” while making comments.

The group, comprising 15 high court judges, 77 ex-all India services officers, and 25 veterans (a total of 117), had alleged that the “unfortunate” comments are not in sync with the judicial ethos and have sent “shockwaves” in the country and outside.

Gehlot also said post-retirement concerns were “affecting” the functioning of judges. Judges and bureaucrats, he said, should work to serve the country rather than be concerned about their post-retirement ambitions.

In this context, he mentioned the nomination of former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi as a Rajya Sabha MP, saying he was one of the four SC judges who had said, at an unprecedented press conference in Delhi in 2018, that democracy is in danger in the country.

He then become the chief justice and later a parliamentarian, Gehlot said.

If someone becomes a chief minister, an MLA, an MP, or a judge and gets a chance to serve the country then he should be proud doing it, he said.

“Life is not of 1000 years. Whatever time you have got, we should work to serve the country. But, if we are worried about what we have to become and what we can become after retirement…if this will worry judges, bureaucrats then how will things work,” Gehlot said.

He also expressed concern over hefty fees being charged by some lawyers in the country and asked the judges to devise a solution so that a common man can seek justice in courts.

“Don’t know what is happening in the country. Some advocates are charging Rs 50 lakh, Rs 80 lakh, Rs 1 crore. Any poor man cannot reach the Supreme Court. It is said that judges also give decisions seeing the face of the advocates then what should a common man do? It is said that if a particular advocate is fighting the case, then judge saab will be impressed. We need to think over it,” he said.

The chief minister also said the situation in the country is worrisome as elected governments are being “toppled through horse-trading”.

“State governments are being overthrown. Goa, Manipur, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra. This ‘Tamasha’ is going on. Is there democracy? If elected governments are overthrown by horse-trading then,” he said.

He then went to mention the crisis his government faced last year due to a rebellion led by his then deputy Sachin Pilot. Gehlot has since said BJP leader and Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat was also behind the attempt to topple the Congress government.

“I don’t know how my government survived. I would not have been standing before you today. You would have met some other chief minister today. It was a matter of touch-and-go,” Gehlot said.

He urged Union Minister of Law and Justice Kiren Rijiju, who was also at the program, to convey his message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address the nation to appeal for peace, harmony, and brotherhood.

“There is an environment of tension and violence in the country. Democracy rests on tolerance. People listen to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and that is why people vote for him. Shouldn’t the Prime Minister address the nation and say that unity and brotherhood have to be maintained? He has to say ‘I will not accept violence at any cost’. I believe the Law Minister can convince him. He (the PM) does not listen to us,” said Gehlot.

He said if the prime minister, chief ministers, MPs, MLAs, ministers, and judges do not deviate from the oath they are administered then things will work.

“We go left and right even after taking an oath. That’s why you see balance getting disturbed,” he said.