The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed all proceedings against two women journalists questioned by Tripura Police for reporting on recent communal violence in the state.
Women journalists Sammriddhi Sakunia and Swarna Jha from the HW News Network – were named in two FIRs filed by Tripura police alleging “spreading communal disharmony” following their reporting on the communal violence in the state, ND TV reported.
The apex court halted all proceedings in both FIRs and issued a notice to Tripura Police.
“We’ll issue a notice (to Tripura Police) seeking their response. There shall be a stay of all further proceedings pursuant to FIR No 39 registered in Tripura and FIR No 82. A counter-affidavit (by the petitioners) is to be filed within four weeks,” Justice DY Chandrachud said.
Justice Chandrachud was part of the three-member bench hearing this matter; the other two were Justice Surya Kant and Justice Vikram Nath.
Earlier, senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing on behalf of the journalists, argued: “The difficulty they faced is that they reported the news and an FIR was registered… and then a second FIR was registered saying that the report is wrong.”
The court was acting on a plea by Theos Connect (a media company that operates HW News Network), Associate Editor Arti Ghargi, and the two journalists – Sakunia and Jha.
Tripura police had registered the FIRs alleging the journalists’ reports promoted enmity between groups, and spread communal hatred by publishing baseless news about communal violence.
The petitioners had challenged the police action by saying that they were only doing ground reporting of facts, based on versions given by the victims of the violence.
The petitioners called the FIRs “targeted harassment of the press”.
Sakunia and Jha were detained last month at a police station in Assam’s Karimganj district, where they were held for three-and-a-half hours before Tripura Police arrived to arrest them.
They were later granted bail by a local court in Tripura.