Supreme Court Questions Validity of Criminal Case Over Manipur Violence Report

Supreme Court Questions Validity of Criminal Case Over Manipur Violence Report
Supreme Court Questions Validity of Criminal Case Over Manipur Violence Report
Supreme Court Questions Validity of Criminal Case Over Manipur Violence Report
Supreme Court Questions Validity of Criminal Case Over Manipur Violence Report

Supreme Court Questions Validity of Criminal Case Over Manipur Violence Report

Supreme Court Questions Validity of Criminal Case Over Manipur Violence Report. Image courtesy: PTI

The Supreme Court of India has raised doubts about whether a fact-finding report on violence in Manipur, prepared by the Editors Guild of India (EGI), should lead to criminal charges. The court also emphasized that the report represents a subjective opinion.

Protection Extended for EGI President and Team

A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra has extended its order to prevent the Manipur police from arresting EGI President Seema Mustafa and three other members of the fact-finding team until Friday – the next hearing date. The court has also requested the state’s response to allow the EGI to approach the Delhi High Court to challenge two criminal cases registered against them in Manipur.

Report Considered Subjective Opinion

The bench, consisting of Justices PS Narasimha and Manoj Misra, expressed that the fact-finding report is, at most, a subjective opinion and questioned whether it could serve as the basis for a criminal case.

Options for Legal Action

While the court did not indicate an intention to quash the FIRs, it is considering whether the EGI should approach the Manipur High Court or the Delhi High Court to challenge the cases. The FIRs were filed in Imphal and Porompat police stations on September 3, a day after the EGI published its report.

Solicitor General’s Perspective

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Manipur government, expressed concerns about the case potentially becoming a precedent and suggested that the matter be heard in a high court near Manipur. The bench has extended protection against arrest for the journalists, initially granted on September 6, until Friday.

Safety Concerns for EGI Team

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing EGI, emphasized the hazardous situation faced by the journalists if they were to go to Manipur, citing a recent incident where a lawyer’s house was vandalized for representing a case against the government.

Background of the Report

The EGI fact-finding team, including Seema Guha, Sanjay Kapur, and Bharat Bhushan, visited Manipur from August 7 to 10 upon an invitation from the Indian Army to examine media reporting on Manipur violence.

Manipur Government’s Response

The Manipur government has filed an affidavit stating that portions of the report were false, published without verification, and highly controversial. It also expressed concerns about the potential impact of misleading reporting on the state’s law and order situation.

FIRs and Legal Provisions

The FIRs against EGI were filed under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, including Sections 153-A (promoting enmity), 298 (hurting religious feelings), 505 (incitement to violence against any community), 499 (criminal defamation), and 120-B (criminal conspiracy).

EGI’s Intent with the Report

EGI clarified that the report aimed to alert authorities and develop responses to uphold the rule of law. Titled “Report of the Fact-Finding Mission on Media’s Reportage of the Ethnic Violence in Manipur,” the report revealed indications of the state’s leadership becoming partisan during the conflict, with divisions along ethnic lines within the executive, bureaucracy, police, and security forces.

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