GG News Bureau
New Delhi, 16th Sept. In the Editors Guild of India case, the Supreme Court made some startling conclusion, stating that the offence of inciting hatred amongst groups contained in the Manipur Police FIR does not seem to be made out.
The court referred to the lawsuit as a “counter-narrative of the government” and questioned how simply providing a report could be considered a crime.
A case had been filed against three members of the Editors Guild’s fact-finding team, who had traveled to Manipur to assess media coverage of the state’s ethnic conflict, as well as the Guild’s president.
The complainant said that the team’s report was “false, fabricated, and sponsored,” and the charges in the initial information report included inciting hatred between different groups.
“Prima facie, the crime mentioned in the FIR does not appear to be made out,” a panel of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra remarked during the hearing on Friday. There is no hint of a crime in the complaint upon which the FIR was filed.”
Noting that the Army had invited the Editors Guild delegation to Manipur, Chief Justice Chandrachud stated, ” Mr Solicitor General, the Army writes to the EGI. Army says that there was partisan reporting. They go on the ground and submit a report. They may be right or wrong. This is what free speech is all about.”
“We are also concerned because this can’t be that the moment somebody says something in print, a case is filed. Your entire complaint is the counter-narrative of the government. You have basically put forth a counter-narrative, assuming that what they have said is false,” the Chief Justice added.
The bench questioned the complainant why the FIR should not be annulled and ordered the complainant two weeks to respond. The court extended the interim relief granted to the journalists, saying no action could be taken against them until then.
The Guild stated in its September 2 report that there were significant indicators that the Manipur leadership had grown partisan throughout the crisis. It also criticized the state’s internet ban, which it claimed was harmful to reporting, as well as “one-sided reporting” by some media outlets.
Senior counsel S Guru Krishnakumar, who represents the complainant, stated, ” This a report which ferments further animosity between groups. If this is a fact-finding report, as they claim, then it should have 100-200 photos of people from other communities who have suffered damage. The reason I’m referring to all this is that the petitioner is trying to project a picture that a completely unbiased report has been submitted, but it is far from that.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Manipur government, stated that the court may grant interim protection to the journalists and send the case to the Delhi High Court if the bench wanted to do so.
On September 4, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh announced the filing of a complaint against Editors Guild president Seema Mustafa, as well as veteran journalists Seema Guha, Bharat Bhushan, and Sanjay Kapoor. After another FIR was filed a few days later, the clause dealing with defamation was added.
The first FIR was filed by social worker N Sarat Singh, and the second by Imphal resident Sorokhaibam Thoudam Sangita.
The Supreme Court was hearing a petition from journalists seeking to have the FIRs dismissed.