Tripura violence: SC slams police for sending notices despite its order

PTI, Feb 7, 2022, 2:43 PM IST

The Supreme Court Monday slammed Tripura Police for sending notices to people for social media posts over alleged communal violence in the state despite its interim restraining order.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant warned the counsel for the state that if Tripura Police does not refrain from harassing people, it will summon the Home Secretary and the concerned police officials.

The top court was hearing a plea filed by journalist Samiullah Shabbir Khan against a notice issued by Tripura Police seeking his appearance under Section 41A (Notice of appearance before police officer) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

”Inform the Superintendent of Police not to harass people like this. Why should somebody be required to run to the Supreme Court? What else is this if this is not harassment….

”Otherwise, we will call SP to court and make him answerable if we find he’s trying to evade compliance by issuing notices to the people. We’ll ask everybody to appear before this court including your Home Secretary, once we have passed an order covering the issue you must show responsibility,” the bench observed.

Advocate Sharukh Alam, appearing for Khan, stated before that the top court on January 10 passed an interim order restraining the police from acting against the journalist’s tweets.

”I didn’t request for dasti notice so physical service is still incomplete.That order hasn’t reached the Superintendent of Police. I was issued a notice under Section 41A asking me (Khan) to appear before Agartala today. That order was well reported,” Alam said.

The counsel for the Tripura government requested that the matter be adjourned for two weeks.

The apex court then said, ”What do you mean hold over for two weeks when you have issued notice for today? The apex court directed Tripura Police not to take further steps with regard to a notice seeking appearance of Khan in the matter.

”The counsel for the petitioner, states that the order dated 10 January 2022 passed by this court, though reported widely, has formally remained to be served on the superintendent of police. Be that as it may, a notice under section 41 A of the CrPC dated 20 January 2022 was issued… requiring the attendance of the petitioner today.

”Since the petitioner has already been protected by the previous order of this court dated 10 January 2022, no further steps shall be taken in pursuance of the notice under section 41 A, pending further orders. Counsel for the state of Tripura, shall communicate both the copies of the present order and the previous order dated 10 January 2022 to the superintendent of police”, the bench said.

When the counsel for the state government said that he has no instructions in the matter, the bench said, ”What else is all this if it is not harassment? It is a very innocuous statement to say you don’t have instructions here while you keep doing all this.” As the hearing came to an end, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared and assured the bench, ”I will look into it and I will ensure that the sanctity of your lordships’ orders is ensured in letter and in spirit”.

The top court on January 10 had restrained Tripura Police from acting on its notice to Twitter Inc with regard to a journalist’s tweet about alleged communal violence in the state.

On November 17 last year, the top court had directed Tripura Police not to take any coercive action against the three civil society members, including a journalist, in connection with an FIR lodged under the harsh UAPA provisions against them for allegedly bringing facts through social media posts about targeted violence against the minority community in the state.

The three persons, who were part of a fact finding committee, have also challenged the Constitutional validity of some provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 on the grounds that the definition of unlawful activities is vague and wide; moreover, the statute makes grant of bail to accused very difficult.

The FIR took note of a tweet of one of the members of the civil society which had stated that ”Tripura is burning”.

Last year, the north-eastern state witnessed incidents of arson, looting and violence after reports emerged from Bangladesh that the Hindu minorities there had been attacked during Durga Puja’ on allegations of blasphemy.

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