The Supreme Court of India has granted protection from arrest to 3 persons booked by Tripura Police under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) for allegedly trying to incite communal violence in the state by spreading fake news. However, the apex court didn’t issue any stay order in the case, and refused to tag the matter with other earlier petitions challenging the vires of certain other provisions of UAPA, as sought by the petitioners.
Hearing the petition filed by Advocate Mukesh, member of People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Advocate Ansar Indori, Secretary, National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation and Newsclick journalist Shyam Meera Singh seeking quashing of the FIR against them and challenging the constitutionality of certain provisions of UAPA, the court also issued notice to the state and central governments. Along with that, the bench of Chief Justice of India N V Ramana, D Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant prevented the police from taking any coercive action against the accused during this time.
While the court issued notices to the Tripura govt and central govt, the court didn’t specify any date by which the responses to the notices will have to be submitted. Moreover, even though the three petitioners have been granted protection from arrest, the court refused to interfere with the police investigation in the case.
The two Supreme Court lawyers Mukesh and Ansar Indori were part of a group of four lawyers, who were booked by Tripura Police under UAPA after they had released a so-called ‘fact-finding’ report titled “Humanity under Attack in Tripura #MuslimsLivesMatter”. The report claimed that there had been a large-scale attack on Muslims by Hindus during protests by Hindus in Tripura against the attack on minority Hindus during Durga Puja.
The so-called report had claimed that 12 masjids, 9 shops and 3 homes belonging to Muslims were attacked during the protests by Hindu groups, a claim completely denied by the police. The Tripura govt maintains that while some minor scuffles did take place during the protests, there was no attack on any mosque in Tripura, as being alleged by the lawyers and others.
The other two lawyers booked in the case were Ehtesham Hashmi and Amit Srivastava, who is the convenor of Lawyers for Democracy. The four lawyers had visited as a self-declared fact-finding team and had published the report after that.
On the other hand, journalist Shyam Meera Singh had claimed that he was booked by the police for alleging on Twitter that Tripura is burning as a result of the protests against attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh.
The journalist and the two lawyers had filed a peal with the Supreme Court to quash the case against them filed by Tripura police and had challenged certain provisions of the UAPA.