Describing the objection filed by the Tripura government against a PIL to look into communal riots in the state last year as "totally unbecoming", lawyer Prashant Bhushan condemned the entire objection as a series of "whataboutery" statements.
Appearing for the petitioner Ehtesham Hashmi, advocate Prashant Bhushan, condemned the state government's remarks that why such probes were not sought during violence in West Bengal and other states.
"For a state to indulge in whataboutery is so unbecoming. We can expect it from news channels. This doesn't show the state in good light," Bhushan told a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and Dinesh Maheshwari. "Whataboutery is suited to C-grade newspapers and TV channels and cannot be resorted to by a state government."
The objection filed by the Tripura government last Saturday had hit out at what it termed the "selective public spirit" of the petitioner which, the objection claims, did not around itself to protest at the mass riots and post-poll violence that took place after elections in Bengal last year.
"No individual or group of individuals professionally functioning as 'public spirited persons/groups' can selectively invoke the extra-ordinary jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to achieve some apparent but undisclosed objective. This selective rousing of public interest itself justifies dismissal of the PIL with exemplary cost," the notice says.
The Supreme Court had sent a notice to the Tripura government and the Central government in November following the filing of Hashmi's PIL, which stated that no action had been taken against miscreants. A Supreme Court bench also restrained the police from targeting journalists who made posts about the communal riots on Twitter last week.
Two women journalists, Samruddhi Sakunia and Swarna Jha had also petitioned the Supreme Court to quash FIRs registered against them for allegedly spreading "disinformation" and attempting to incite communal outrage after they reported on the alleged destruction of a mosque, which the government denied had happened.
"If the State is allowed to criminalise the very act of fact-finding and unbiased reporting, then the only facts that will come in the public domain are those that are convenient to the State due to the chilling effect on the freedom of speech and expression of members of civil society," the petition by the women journalists reads.
The top court bench allowed Bhushan to file his reply to the state's affidavit by Thursday and agreed to hear the matter on Monday.