A Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court in Gomati district on Monday, 15 November, released HW News Network journalists Sammriddhi Sakunia and Swarna Jha, stating that the alleged offences against them were serious in nature but to have kept them in detention would have been "extreme curtailment of personal liberty".
The two had been arrested by the Tripura Police earlier in the day on purported charges of publishing false news aimed at disrupting communal harmony. After being named in a First Information Report (FIR) at the Fatikroy police station on Sunday, in Tripura, they were arrested on Monday.
The two journlaists had been detained by the Assam Police while on the way to Silchar on Sunday and then were let go, as per a statement put out by the network.
According to a tweet put out by the network on Monday, Sakunia and Jha were arrested by Tripura Police early on Monday afternoon from a shelter home in Assam's Karimganj.
"They are being taken back to Tripura where they will be produced before Udaipur magistrate court," the statement had read.
The network said that senior advocate Pijush Biswas would be representing them in court.
The Journalists Were Instigating People Against the Govt: Tripura's Information Minister
Meanwhile, Tripura's Information Minister Susanta Chowdhury has said that the two journalists were "instigating the people against the government".
"The two women journalists were provoking the people, instigating the people against the government, trying to unite the Muslim community on behalf of another political party," Chowdhury, who is also the government spokesman, said, as per NDTV.
"If they simply wanted to report from ground, present news we don't have a problem, but why were they putting up provocative post? We all saw what happened in Amravati, the minority community was provoked to come out on the street, who did it? These type of journalists did it," the Minister added.
'Detention of Accused Persons May Not be Necessary'
A Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court in Gomati district on Monday said in its release that the detention of the accused persons "may not be necessary for the purpose of investigation".
“The offences alleged are serious in nature. However, from the materials on record and submissions of both the sides, it appears to the court that the detention of the accused persons may not be necessary for the purpose of investigation. For the same reason, it is not necessary to detain the accused persons in police custody as the same is extreme curtailment of personal liberty,” said the court of CJM Subhra Nath.
The court told the journalists to appear before the Investigating Officer of the case whenver they are called and asked them to co-operate with the investigation.
What Had Happened?
Sakunia and Jha were in Tripura covering the recent incident of communal violence in the state. The FIR against them was reportedly registered on Sunday on a complaint filed by a Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) supporter.
The FIR, filed on the complaint of one Kanchan Das, alleged that the two "delivered instigating speech against Hindu(s)" while they visited the Paul Bazaar area under the Fatikroy constituency.
He also accused the two of being a part of a "criminal conspiracy" and blamed them for blaming the VHP and Bajrang Dal for damaging a mosque in the area.
The duo have been booked under the Indian Penal Code sections 120(B) (criminal conspiracy), 153(A) (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), and 504 (intentional insult).
Meanwhile, IG (Law and Order) Arindam Nath had told news agency ANI that the two journalists were detained for "publishing and broadcasting false and fabricated news".
Their lawyer Senior Advocate Pijush Kanti Biswas has, however, clarified, as per EastMojo, that two women journalists were arrested from Karimganj by Tripura police on Sunday.
“They had come from Mumbai to cover the news which was being largely circulated all over social media on alleged vandalism on mosques and minority families," Biswas said. He went on to add:
"They had come here for ground reporting on the violence and attack on minorities in Udaipur, North Tripura’s different places where it was said that mosques were attacked. They published the news on social media and said that the mosque and Quran were burnt, against which the police took up a case and said that all these were done to instigate communal hatred among different communities."
(With inputs from ANI, NDTV and East Mojo.)