In a significant legal development today, the Supreme Court of India, presided over by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, has extended interim protection from arrest to the esteemed president and members of the Editors Guild of India (EGI). This decision comes in response to a First Information Report (FIR) filed against them by the Manipur police.
The high bench has ruled that no coercive actions shall be taken against the concerned individuals until Monday, September 11, 2023, pending further proceedings.
This legal imbroglio stems from the turmoil in Manipur, where tensions have escalated between the Metei community and the Kuki tribe, designated as a scheduled tribe. On April 19, 2023, the Manipur High Court had issued an order instructing the state government to evaluate the inclusion of the Meetei/Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe list, a move that subsequently led to clashes between tribal and non-tribal communities.
In response to these events, the Manipur Police lodged an FIR against EGI President Seema Mustafa and three of its members – Seema Guha, Bharat Bhushan, and Sanjay Kapoor. These members had comprised a fact-finding team dispatched to the state to scrutinize the media’s coverage of the ongoing violence, ultimately concluding that local news reports were displaying bias.
The Editors Guild of India subsequently brought their case to the Supreme Court.
During today’s hearing, Senior Advocate Shyam Divan emphasized the correction of an error in the report, dated September 2, 2023, which was promptly rectified on September 3. Divan expressed concerns regarding the FIR’s allegations, which accused the report of promoting enmity and spreading falsehoods.
The Court initially considered granting a limited week-long protection, suggesting that the petitioners could explore alternative legal remedies. However, Divan pressed for an extended safeguard period, highlighting additional factors, including statements made by the Chief Minister in a press conference, asserting that EGI had stirred controversy with provocative remarks.
The Supreme Court subsequently acceded to the plea and extended interim protection until September 11, 2023.
In the realm of legal developments, this case remains a matter of great import, impacting the freedom of the press and the delicate balance between investigative journalism and potential legal repercussions.