(Judicial Quest News Network)
Today the SC extended its interim order protecting from arrest the president and the members of the fact-finding team of Editors Guild of India (EGI) with respect to two FIRs registered against them by Manipur Police.
On September, 3, 2023 members of the fact-finding team of Editors Guild of India were booked by Manipur Police for publishing a fact-finding report on Manipur Violence.
Manipur police had filed multiple FIRs against the executive members f EGI.
A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice J B Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra extended its order retraining Manipur police from arresting the EGI president and other members of EGI.
Earlier the Apex Court had passed an order protecting the EGI President and other members of the fact-finding team from any coercive action till Monday.
The initial FIR was filed by Ngangom Sarat a “social worker” in the State under the several provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 including criminal conspiracy and defamation.
The FIRs also claimed that the report published by the EGI was “incorrect” and has “false Statements”.
SC Refuses to Quash FIRs
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Manipur government, urged the bench to ask EGI to approach the Manipur High Court. Senior Advocate Shyam Divan and Kapil Sibal appearing for the EGI opposed it strongly.
In the petition challenging the FIRs filed lodged against the members of the EGI. The Apex Court today orally remarked that the issue pertained to just a report and was not a case of someone committing an offence on the Ground. The writ petition , jointly filed by Journalist Seema Guha, Sanjay Kapoor, Bharath Bhushan , and the President of EGI.
During the hearing the CJI DY Chandrachud remarked that “it is a report after all. The basic question is, what they are arguing is this- they have done a report. That is a matter of their subjective opinion. Can that really is…. This is not one of the cases where somebody was there on the ground and committed some offence. They published a report.
The EGI submitted that the team was not volunteer by itself to go to Manipur and make the report. However it was invited by the Army to do so because it was the Army which wanted an objective assessment of the reporting on the ground in the State of Manipur.
On July 12, 2023, when the conflict had already been going on for a little over two months, the EGI also received a written complaint from the Indian Army’s 3rd Corps headquarters citing specific examples of the media in Manipur suggesting that it may be playing “a major role in arousing passion and not letting sustainable peace to come in”. They claimed that the media outlets of Imphal Valley have been indulging in “outright misrepresentation of facts” and in the process may be “one of the major contributors to the instigation of further violence” as the “bias of the media in favour of one community and against the other community emerges clearly in their reportage”. Asserts the report.
A three-member team comprising Ms. Seema Guha, Mr. Bharat Bhushan and Mr. Sanjay Kapoor was sent to Manipur to examine the media reportage in the state. The team visited Manipur from August 7 to 10.
Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud asked the SG Mehta whether the Manipur government would agree to transfer the case to the Delhi High Court as one-off measure.
“We will not quash the FIRs here but we will examine whether such a plea could be heard by Delhi High Court. He said.
SG Mehta objected the transfers of the cases to Delhi High court, he said that EGI was attempting to make it a “national Political issue” and asked why it wanted the matter to be transferred to Delhi High Court, and not to any other High Courts of the States neighbouring Manipur.
EGI after receiving representations about the uneven and biased reportage of the local and National media, send a fact-finding team to Manipur.
EGI said its terms of reference to examine the reportage of the violence by the media, to examine whether media was indeed ‘biased and divisive’ as alleged by several stakeholders.
The report found that the Manipur police and Commando units of the state were also partisan and allegedly openly sided with the civilians and raided Kuki villagesin the outskirts of Imphal.”it is well known that the mob did not loot the police armouries, the weapons were given to them by the police on orders of the state government, a senior member of the indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum in Kangpokpi told the EGI.
The matter will now be heard on September 15, 2023.