SC Extends Relief To Editors Guild Members In Manipur Fact-Finding Report Case
The Supreme Court on Monday extended its order granting interim protection from arrest till September 15 to the president and fact-finding team members of the Editors Guild of India (EGI) in relation to the two FIRs registered against them by the Manipur Police.
A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra
extended the operation of its order passed on September 6 on the plea of the EGI till Friday, the next date of hearing.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Manipur government, told the bench that EGI members may be protected for some more time and asked it to send the matter to the Manipur High Court as done in other cases.
However, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Shyam Divan, appearing for the EGI, opposed SG’s submission saying the matter be heard by the apex top court as the FIRs have been lodged on the basis of a fact-finding report.
The Chief Justice asked Mehta whether the State would agree to the transfer of the case to the Delhi High Court as a one-off measure. “We will not quash the FIRs here… but we will examine whether such a plea could be heard by the Delhi High Court,” CJI said.
SG initially objected to the transfer of the case to the Delhi High Court, saying the EGI was trying to make it into a “national, political issue” and asked why the petitioners were insisting on Delhi, and not States neighbouring Manipur.
Mehta said the Manipur High Court was functioning regularly and allowed virtual hearing of cases.
Sibal told the bench that EGI’s team had visited Manipur on the “Army’s invitation” to make an “objective assessment” of the “unethical and ex parte reporting” by the vernacular media.
“We did not volunteer to go there. It is the Army that requested us. We got a letter from the Army,” Sibal said.
The Chief Justice expressed surprise as to why the Army wanted the EGI to go to Manipur.
Editors Guild of India approached the Supreme Court seeking quashing of two FIRs registered by Manipur police against its president and its fact-finding team over the report on the violence in the State.
The Guild’s 24-page report was released on September 2. The fact-finding team was sent to Manipur to examine the media reportage in the state from August 7 to 10.
The Manipur Police registered an FIR against Guild’s President Seema Mustafa, and three of its members – Seema Guha, Bharat Bhushan and Sanjay Kapoor – who were part of the fact-finding team that visited Manipur to examine how media in the state was reporting the violence. They had concluded that local news reports about the riots were biased.
The first FIR is based on a complaint filed by one Ngangom Sarat Singh who has described the report as “ false, fabricated and sponsored”. The second FIR was registered against the four members of the Guild, with the additional charge of defamation.
The plea sought directions to quash two FIRs registered by the Manipur police against Guild’s members.
The top court is seized of the cases relating to the violence in Manipur between Meitei and Kuki communities.
The violence in Manipur between the Hindu Meiteis and the tribal Kuki, who are Christians, erupted after a rally by the All Tribal Students Union of Manipur (ATSUM) on May 3.
Violence has gripped the entire state since May and the Central government had to deploy paramilitary forces to bring the situation under control. (ANI)
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