SC protection to journalist from arrest over critical tweets on Manipur riottext_fields
New Delhi: The Supreme Court has intervened to stay criminal proceedings against independent journalist Makepeace Sitlhou, who faced charges under several sections of the IPC in connection with her critical remarks on Twitter regarding the Manipur government's handling of escalating violence in the state.
She was charged under Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 153A (promoting enmity between two groups), 500 (defamation), and 505(2) (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The FIR against Sitlhou was filed by a resident of Lamboikhongnangkhong, Lairenlakpam Sandeep, who accused her of using social media platforms to spread misleading information, destabilize the democratically elected government, and create communal disharmony.
Sandeep alleged that Sitlhou's tweets were intended to incite a particular community and pose a threat to the state's security.
Sitlhou, in her defence, asserted that as a journalist, she used her platform to address rumours, violence, and the lack of action by the political establishment. She emphasized that her tweets were a response to unfortunate demands for certain ethnic groups to 'go back where they belong' and highlighted the ethnic nature of the prevailing violence.
In response to Sitlhou's petition, a bench led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, along with Justice J.B. Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra, granted her relief by staying the proceedings concerning the FIRs. The Chief Justice underscored the importance of protecting freedom of expression and the role of journalists in uncovering and presenting the truth.
This decision comes in the backdrop of allegations against the Manipur government for indiscriminately filing cases against journalists reporting on ethnic violence in the state. The Supreme Court had previously granted interim protection to three journalists from the Editors Guild of India in September after they faced coercive action by Manipur Police.