The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed further proceedings on FIRs registered against journalists of a digital news network in connection with reportage of the alleged communal violence in Tripura.
A bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud issued notice on the plea filed by Theos Connect, which operates the HW News Network, and three of its journalists seeking the quashing of two FIRs dated November 14 and 18.
The court gave the state four weeks to file its counter-affidavit.
The Tripura Police had booked two scribes — Samriddhi K Sakunia and Swarna Jha — under Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 153A (promoting enmity between religious groups) and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) of the Indian Penal Code.
A chief judicial magistrate court granted them bail on November 15.
Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate Siddharth Luthra said that after the duo was granted bail in the first FIR, another FIR was registered “to say that we have now established that in the first FIR, the journalists are wrong.” He contended that this is “really untenable and not justified.”
The plea termed the police action “targeted abuse of criminalising the reporting by petitioners and its correspondents/ reporters…” and will have a chilling effect on free speech.
“If the state is allowed to criminalise the very act of fact-finding and unbiased reporting, then the only facts that will come in the public domain are those that are convenient to the state due to the ‘chilling effect on the freedom of speech and expression of members of civil society. If the quest for truth and reporting thereof itself is criminalised then the victim in the process is the idea of justice”, said the petition.