New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday restrained the Tripura police from initiating any coercive action against journalist Shyam Meera Singh and two lawyers who were booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 for their “fact finding” report and tweets on the communal violence in the state.
The top court issued notice to the Tripura government on the petition challenging the First Information Report or FIR registered under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for reports and posts during violence in the state last month including a tweet by Newsclick journalist Shyam Meera Singh that read, “Tripura is burning”.
“The state cannot file FIRs like these against journalists. Today its me, tomorrow it will be someone else. Process is the punishment in such cases. I have not been able to sleep or eat properly. Our fight is against UAPA as a law. UAPA is being misused to trample upon facts,” Mr Singh told media.
In addition to Shyam Meera Singh, the bench of Chief Justice of India N V Ramana, D Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant also issued notice on the plea filed by Advocates Mukesh, member of People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Ansar Indori, Secretary, and National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation seeking quashing of the FIR against them and challenging the constitutionality of certain provisions of UAPA. Both lawyers visited Tripura as part of an independent fact-finding team.
“FIR was filed against me for the fact-finding report we made on Tripura violence. We have been traumatised because of this FIR. Supreme Court’s decision is a relief for now but we want FIR to be quashed. Our fact-finding report was purely factual about incidents of violence against minorities, there was nothing objectionable. We hope to get justice from the Supreme Court,” Mukesh said.
The plea also had sought a court-monitored probe, a declaration that some parts of the UAPA are unconstitutional, and argues that states being allowed to use UAPA to criminalise fact-finding will lead to a “chilling effect” on freedom of speech, and “only facts convenient to the government will come out”.
The fact-finding team, the plea further said, “did not question the sovereignty or territorial integrity of India” and that Mr Singh’s ‘Tripura is burning’ tweet was “factual reporting”.
The FIR had accused Mr Singh and the others of spreading “fake news” and “distorted or objectionable” content about what the state government has dismissed as allegations of mosques being vandalised and local Muslim communities being attacked after communal violence in neighbouring Bangladesh.
Tripura Violence: Journalist Shyam Meera Singh and two others had approached the Supreme Court.