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'Counter-Narrative of Govt': SC on FIR Against EGI Over Manipur Report

The apex court granted the complainants two weeks to file their response.

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"Your entire complaint is a counter-narrative of the government...," said Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud on Friday, 15 September, to the complainant who filed an FIR against the Editors Guild of India (EGI) for publishing a report about "partisan reportage in Manipur."

A bench comprising the CJI, Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice Manoj Misra was hearing a petition challenging the FIR filed against EGI members.

Making some sharp observations about the complaint filed against the EGI, the CJI said that even if the EGI's report is assumed to be false, making false statements in an article, by itself, was not an offence under Section 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups) of the Indian Penal Code, reported LiveLaw.

The apex court granted the complainants two weeks to file their response as to why the FIRs against EGI members should not be quashed by the court. The court also extended relief for EGI member till then.

'Counter-Narrative of Govt': SC on FIR Against EGI Over Manipur Report

  1. 1. What All Did the Apex Court Say?

    Addressing the complainants, represented by senior advocate Guru Krishnakumar, who claim that EGI's report "aggravates the problem," the Supreme Court said:

    “Tell us how any of these offences are made out from their report… Show us how Section 153A of the IPC is made out. What is happening? They [EGI] are entitled to put forth their views. This is just a report. Where did you get all these offences from? Section 153A? You have said they have offended under Section 200 IPC (giving false declaration to a court). Where did they give a declaration to a court? This was a report. How is Section 200 implicated here?” 

    Further, while addressing complainant's claim of the "damage done by EGI report," the CJI remarked: “Since you raise that issue, tell us first about how these offences are made out. File an affidavit. Put it on record. Tell us why the complaints and the FIRs should not be quashed… "

    The CJI further pointed out that the Army asked the EGI to visit Manipur and make a report.

    "The Army wrote to the EGI saying there was partisan reporting being done in Manipur. The EGI sends a team of senior journalists to the ground to intervene and find out. They submit a report… They may be right or wrong, that is what free speech is all about," the CJI said.

    When advocate Krishnakumar stated that an FIR or the complaint could not be treated as an encyclopedia and an investigation needs to take place, the CJI remarked:

    "You have to show us in a case like this your complaint – does it even make out a whisper of the ingredients of the offence?...Your entire complaint is a counter-narrative of the government... You have basically put forth a counter-narrative, assuming that what they have said is false. Making a false statement in an article is not an offence under Section 153A. It may be incorrect. Incorrect things are reported all across the country every day. Will you prosecute journalists for 153A?"

    The complainant also said that if the EGI withdrew its report, then they would not press the complaint.

    Expand
  2. 2. What Did the EGI Say?

    Reiterating that the EGI was invited by the Army to make the report, Senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing the EGI journalists said that counter-views to the report have also been published on the EGI's webpage.

    “People can read both our views and their counter-views and make up their minds,” Divan stated, as quoted by The Hindu.

    Further, referring to the report, Divan said that there were some errors in the report which the journalist body has already rectified.

    "What they found was that there was a community controlling the narrative. This was a cause of concern...There is an extreme pressure on journalists to put forth views of their community rather than reporting on facts...It is a fact finding with all its limitations...There are recommendations but this report is prepared with care. It's bona fide," Divan said.

    The petitioners further pointed out that a PIL seeking quashing of EGI's report has already been admitted by the Manipur High Court. Referring to it, Divan sought that the case be transferred to Delhi.

    Addressing the same, CJI Chandrachud observed: "The manner in which the Chief Justice of the Manipur High Court has entertained that PIL… let me not, as the head of the family, say more… Surely there are more pressing matters to be entertained than these kinds of PILs.”

    Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, representing the Manipur government, objected to the top court entertaining the petition, reported LiveLaw.

    Moreover, when the CJI pressed on justifying the offences stated the complaint, SG requested that the court may refrain from making comments on the merits of the case, adding, "let the case go to the Delhi High Court."

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  3. 3. The Case

    An FIR was filed in Manipur against EGI president Seema Mustafa and senior journalists Seema Guha, Bharat Bhushan, and Sanjay Kapoor on 4 September, for publishing a report titled 'Media's Reportage on Ethnic Violence in Manipur' which claimed that "journalists of Manipur wrote one-sided reports" about the violence in the state.

    The guild members were booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as well as provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and Press Council Act, 1978.

    (With inputs from The Hindu and LiveLaw.)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What All Did the Apex Court Say?

Addressing the complainants, represented by senior advocate Guru Krishnakumar, who claim that EGI's report "aggravates the problem," the Supreme Court said:

“Tell us how any of these offences are made out from their report… Show us how Section 153A of the IPC is made out. What is happening? They [EGI] are entitled to put forth their views. This is just a report. Where did you get all these offences from? Section 153A? You have said they have offended under Section 200 IPC (giving false declaration to a court). Where did they give a declaration to a court? This was a report. How is Section 200 implicated here?” 

Further, while addressing complainant's claim of the "damage done by EGI report," the CJI remarked: “Since you raise that issue, tell us first about how these offences are made out. File an affidavit. Put it on record. Tell us why the complaints and the FIRs should not be quashed… "

The CJI further pointed out that the Army asked the EGI to visit Manipur and make a report.

"The Army wrote to the EGI saying there was partisan reporting being done in Manipur. The EGI sends a team of senior journalists to the ground to intervene and find out. They submit a report… They may be right or wrong, that is what free speech is all about," the CJI said.

When advocate Krishnakumar stated that an FIR or the complaint could not be treated as an encyclopedia and an investigation needs to take place, the CJI remarked:

"You have to show us in a case like this your complaint – does it even make out a whisper of the ingredients of the offence?...Your entire complaint is a counter-narrative of the government... You have basically put forth a counter-narrative, assuming that what they have said is false. Making a false statement in an article is not an offence under Section 153A. It may be incorrect. Incorrect things are reported all across the country every day. Will you prosecute journalists for 153A?"

The complainant also said that if the EGI withdrew its report, then they would not press the complaint.

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What Did the EGI Say?

Reiterating that the EGI was invited by the Army to make the report, Senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing the EGI journalists said that counter-views to the report have also been published on the EGI's webpage.

“People can read both our views and their counter-views and make up their minds,” Divan stated, as quoted by The Hindu.

Further, referring to the report, Divan said that there were some errors in the report which the journalist body has already rectified.

"What they found was that there was a community controlling the narrative. This was a cause of concern...There is an extreme pressure on journalists to put forth views of their community rather than reporting on facts...It is a fact finding with all its limitations...There are recommendations but this report is prepared with care. It's bona fide," Divan said.

The petitioners further pointed out that a PIL seeking quashing of EGI's report has already been admitted by the Manipur High Court. Referring to it, Divan sought that the case be transferred to Delhi.

Addressing the same, CJI Chandrachud observed: "The manner in which the Chief Justice of the Manipur High Court has entertained that PIL… let me not, as the head of the family, say more… Surely there are more pressing matters to be entertained than these kinds of PILs.”

Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, representing the Manipur government, objected to the top court entertaining the petition, reported LiveLaw.

Moreover, when the CJI pressed on justifying the offences stated the complaint, SG requested that the court may refrain from making comments on the merits of the case, adding, "let the case go to the Delhi High Court."

0

The Case

An FIR was filed in Manipur against EGI president Seema Mustafa and senior journalists Seema Guha, Bharat Bhushan, and Sanjay Kapoor on 4 September, for publishing a report titled 'Media's Reportage on Ethnic Violence in Manipur' which claimed that "journalists of Manipur wrote one-sided reports" about the violence in the state.

The guild members were booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as well as provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and Press Council Act, 1978.

(With inputs from The Hindu and LiveLaw.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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