The Supreme Court on Friday (15 September) observed that that the FIR filed against members of the Editors’ Guild of India (EGI) was a “counter-narrative” of the Manipur government to the fact-finding report on the ethnic clashes in the state.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud also noted that even if the statements in the EGI’s report were assumed to be false, they did not amount to an offence under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which was the basis for the FIR registered earlier this month, reports The Print.
Section 153A of the IPC criminalises actions that promote hatred and enmity between different groups.
The apex court was hearing of a petition filed by the members of EGI, who sought the quashing of the case against them and protection from any coercive action by the Manipur Police.
Extending the interim protection given to the EGI office-bearers named in the FIR, the top court granted two-weeks to the Manipur government to submit its response to the petition.
The Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta, objected to the Supreme Court considering the petition. He suggested that the petitioners should seek relief from the Manipur High Court.
Appearing for the complainant who had lodged the FIR against EGI members, senior advocate Guru Krishnakumar stated that his client would withdraw the complaint if the EGI retracted its report, which was published on 2 September.
Furthermore, he accused the EGI's report of aggravating the situation in Manipur and claimed that a curfew had been reinstated after its publication.
EGI President Seema Mustafa and senior journalists Seema Guha, Bharat Bhushan, and Sanjay Kapoor, who are members of the EGI, have been named in the FIR. Guha, Bhushan and Kapoor had recently visited Manipur to conduct a study on media reporting regarding the ethnic clashes between the Kukis and the Meiteis. Their visit took place from 7 to 10 August.
According to the team's report, they found that the "leadership of the state" had become "partisan during the conflict".
Following their visit, N Sarat Singh, a social worker based in Imphal, filed an FIR against the four EGI members.
Singh accused them of attempting to "provoke clashes" in Manipur. A second FIR was also filed against the four, which included an additional charge of defamation.
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.