Supreme Court grants interim protection against arrest to journalists from Editors Guild of India for fact-finding in Manipur

Two first information reports for allegedly making false statements and promoting enmity between groups were filed against three journalists from the Editors Guild of India who had visited Manipur on a fact-finding mission and produced a report.

TODAY, the Supreme Court granted interim protection from arrest by Manipur police to three journalists from the Editors Guild of India.

The first information reports (FIR) were filed in Manipur against the members of the fact-finding team belonging to the guild who submitted a fact-finding report on violence-hit Manipur.

A three-judge Bench led by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dr D.Y. Chandrachud and also comprising Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra were hearing  a writ petition filed by the guild seeking  quashing of the two FIRs.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing on behalf of the journalists, gave a background of the petition to the Bench. 

He apprised the court that between August 7 and 10, the guild sent the petitioners— Seema Gupta, Sanjay Kapoor and Bharat Bhushan— to report on the issue of local and State media coverage in Manipur.

Divan submitted that the report was released by the fact-finding team on September 2.

As per to the report, the team was constituted after receiving several representations on the “uneven and biased reportage of the conflict”.

Divan apprised the court that subsequent to the report, two FIRs were filed against the journalists claiming that incorrect and false statements have been made in the report and that the report promotes enmity between groups.

The report alleges that the local media in Manipur have written one-sided reports and the coverage has worsened due to the internet ban in the state.

The report also claims that the “leadership of the state became partisan during the conflict”.

Parity sought with Deeksha Dwivedi’s interim protection

Divan sought parity with the interim protection from arrest granted to advocate Deeksha Dwivedi.

Dwivedi, along with two others, was booked by the Manipur police on July 8, 2023, under Sections 121A, 124A, 153, 153A, 153B, 499, 504 and 505(2), read with Section 34 of the IPC.

The three accused persons were part of a fact-finding team that went to Manipur to hear individual testimonies of people affected by the violence that has gripped the state.

On July 11, the Bench, comprising the CJI and Justices P.S. Narasimha and Misra, passed an Order granting interim protection from arrest by the Manipur police to Dwivedi.

Divan highlighted the concern that after the report was published and FIRs were filed, the chief Minister of Manipur N. Biren Singh held a press conference and stated that the Editors Guild of India had made provocative statements.

Taking into account Divan’s submissions, the Bench directed no coercive steps to be taken against the petitioners till September 11. 

The Bench issued notices to the respondents and the standing counsel for Manipur government. 

The matter is posted for further hearing on September 11.

Click here to read the Order.

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