The Supreme Court issued a notice to Tripura Police and stayed further proceedings against two women journalists on Wednesday. According to Live Law, they reported on alleged instances of religious vandalism in the state.
To file a counter-affidavit as well as liberty to serve the standing counsel for the state of Tripura, the court also granted four weeks time for the petitioners.
Based on a complaint by local Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists, an FIR was registered against journalists Samriddhi K Sakunia and Swarna Jha and was registered at the Fatikroy police station in Unakoti district. The journalists were booked under sections relating to spreading communal disharmony, criminal conspiracy, and committing insult with the intent of provoking breach of peace.
The petitioners argued that the FIRs amount to "targeted harassment of press" and had challenged the police action against them by saying that they were only reporting the incident and narrating it with versions given to them by the victims of the alleged violence.
"HW News Network Journalists Samriddhi Sakunia and Swarna Jha have been detained by Assam Police on their way to Silchar. Assam Police has said that they don't have any case against our journalists but Tripura Police asked them to detain them", HW News Network, where the two journalists work, had released an official statement on social media, before their detention.
Immediate release of the two journalists has been demanded by the Editors Guild of India.
"The BJP system is busy killing journalism. But when has the truth stopped in the face of lies?" reacted Rahul Gandhi to the incident.
The incident is a case of encroachment upon the Constitutional right of freedom of speech and expression said Tripura CPI(M) secretary Jitendra Chaudhury. "If there is anything wrong or if they have attempted to breach peace, there are sections of law that can be applied. At the behest of VHP, they can't be charged and arrested. This is intolerance and very wrong," he added.