The Supreme Court has said the state force should not be used to either browbeat political opinion or journalists suffer from what is already in public domain.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.M. Sundresh said, "We are however, not inclined to let go off the opportunity of saying something which is troubling the society and the Court."
"State force should never be used to either browbeat a political opinion or the journalists suffer the consequences of what is already in public domain. We hasten to add that this does not take away the responsibility of the journalists in how they report the matters, more so in a Twitter age."
'The State Govt's Stand Should Be Appreciated & Should Be Used As Model'
The bench further added that it is undoubtedly the debasement in the dialogue which is taking place which needs introspection from the political class across the country.
"In a country which prides itself on its diversity, there are bound to be different perceptions and opinions which would include political opinions. That is very essence of a democracy. The present proceedings in a way emanate from the same," it added.
The top court made these observations on Thursday, 9 December, quashing three FIRs against journalists from OpIndia, after the West Bengal government informed that it has decided to withdraw FIRs registered against its editor Nupur Sharma and another journalist for articles published on the website.
"We must appreciate the stand taken by the state government and allay any apprehension of the learned senior counsel for the respondent(s) that it may be perceived in a negative sense in public domain. If at all, the stand is to be appreciated of better late than never and should be a model for others to follow," noted the bench, in its order.
Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani represented the petitioners, who had moved the top court in June 2020, after the police registered cases against them for offences under the Indian Penal Code's Section 153A (promoting enmity between religious groups), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief).
The apex court had stayed the FIRs in June 2020. The police had registered another FIR, which was also stayed by the top court in September 2021.
The petitioners had argued that FIRs were registered in connection with different stories carried by the OpIndia platform. They further contended that various other mainstream news outlets had also carried articles and news pieces on the concerned subjects. However, the police registered FIRs only against the petitioners.