×

India

Justice Kant’s Observations On Nupur Sharma’s Conduct Show Why Obiter Dicta Remains Relevant For Judiciary

While there has been a debate on whether and to what extent the judge's observations or remarks should be given importance, the accepted principle is that whenever a judge makes "a definite opinion", the same has to be taken more seriously than just an opinion.

Supreme Court Justice Kant
Justice Surya Kant came down heavily on suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma for having “ignited emotions across the country” and being “single-handedly responsible for what is happening in the country”.

After having faced criticism, some of it unwarranted, over several of its decisions, especially in politically-sensitive cases, the hashtag Supreme Court today trended on social media for the right reasons. In fact, more than the Supreme Court, hashtag Justice Kant trended throughout the day after the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Surya Kant came down heavily on suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma for having “ignited emotions across the country” and being “single-handedly responsible for what is happening in the country”.

During the hearing of Sharma’s plea to transfer multiple FIRs filed against her to Delhi, Justice Surya Kant observed, “What if she is the spokesperson of a party? She thinks she has the back up of power and can make any statement without respect to the law of the land?”

There has often been a debate over the issue of judges making oral observations – obiter dicta – or remarks during hearings on important matters. While it has been questioned whether and to what extent these remarks should be given importance, the accepted principle is that whenever a judge makes “a definite opinion”, the same has to be taken more seriously than just an opinion – the differentiation was made by jurist Nani Palkivala during a case decades ago in 1954.

When, for example, the Supreme Court equated the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), acting at the behest of “its political masters”, with a “caged parrot”, the world took note of it, and even today, whenever the CBI acts in a partisan manner, the phrase is repeated.

Such was the power of the observation that a sitting Law Minister, Ashwani Kumar, accused of making changes to a draft report that the CBI was going to file in the Supreme Court with regard to its investigation into the coal blocks allocation scam, had to resign.

Today’s observations by Justice Surya Kant are no less important. For, he may have sent out a categorical message to the hate-mongers, who are trying to divide the country on religious grounds, that they can’t do it with impunity.

This, incidentally, isn’t the first time the Judge, who comes from a very humble Haryana family and was the youngest-ever Advocate General of Haryana and is in line to be the Chief Justice of India in November 2025, has made headlines for his courtroom observations.

During a hearing in the case of farmers’ killing in Lakhimpur Kheri, Justice Surya Kant had observed, “We are sorry to say that prima facie it appears that one particular accused is being given benefits by overlapping two FIRs.”

It was after the strong observations by the Supreme Court bench in this high profile case that a semblance of action was initiated against the accused. Ashish Mishra, the main accused in the case where a group of farmers were mowed down without any provocation, is the son of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra.

Similarly, Justice Surya Kant’s damning observations about the fact that every time pollution levels in the national capital showed signs of rising, blame was shifted on to the hapless farmers. “It has become a fashion to bash farmers… I am a farmer,” he had said and caught everyone’s attention for the truth in his words.

Today, Justice Surya Kant has, once again, underscored the truth in Palkivala’s words that obiter dictum, in so far as it is a definite opinion, remains relevant to any judicial set up.