Lawyers led a fact-finding mission and released report on ‘targetted political violence against Muslim minorities in the State’ and journalist tweeted ‘Tripura is burning’
A Special Bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana protected two lawyers and a journalist booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) from any “coercive action” by the Tripura police.
The lawyers had led a fact-finding mission and released a report on the “targetted political violence against Muslim minorities in the State” in October and the journalist had tweeted “Tripura is burning”.
Advocates Mukesh and Ansarul Haq Ansar and journalist Shyam Meera Singh had petitioned the court to quash the FIR lodged against them and for protection from arrest.
They said the State of Tripura was “monopolising the flow of information and facts emanating from the affected areas by invoking the UAPA against members of civil society, including advocates and journalists, who have made the effort to bring facts in relation to the targeted violence in the public domain”.
The petition, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, asked the court to restrict the vague and wide definition given to what amounts to “unlawful activity” under the UAPA. The definition gave a free hand to the State to crush dissent and free speech with the threat of the UAPA, it argued.
Notice to State
The Bench, also comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant, issued notice to Tripura.
The petitioners said the registration of UAPA cases against them amounted to the “criminalisation of the very act of fact-finding and reporting”. The stringent sections of the UAPA were being used to spread a chilling effect on free speech and expression of civil society. Anticipatory bail was barred under the UAPA and the possibility of bail was remote.
“The only facts that will come in the public domain are those 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 itself is criminalised then the victim in the process is the idea of justice,” the petition stated. The shadow of the UAPA would choke the ‘free flow of information and ideas’.