State forces not to be used to browbeat political opinion, says SC; FIRs against OpIndia journos quashedtext_fields
State forces must not be used to browbeat political opinion or make journalists suffer, a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh of the Supreme Court said on Saturday. The Court further quashed three FIRs against journalists from OpIndia following the West Bengal government's decision to withdraw the FIRs against editor Nupur Sharma and another journalist for the articles published on the right-wing leaning media portal.
"We are however, not inclined to let go off the opportunity of saying something which is troubling the society and the Court. State force should never be used to either browbeat a political opinion or the journalists suffer the consequences of what is already in public domain. We hasten to add that this does not take away the responsibility of the journalists in how they report the matters, more so in a Twitter age," the bench said.
Furthermore, the political class across the country must introspect the debasement in the dialogue which is taking place.
"In a country which prides itself on its diversity, there are bound to be different perceptions and opinions which would include political opinions. That is very essence of a democracy. The present proceedings in a way emanate from the same," it added.
"We must appreciate the stand taken by the state government and allay any apprehension of the learned senior counsel for the respondent(s) that it may be perceived in a negative sense in public domain. If at all, the stand is to be appreciated of better late than never and should be a model for others to follow," noted the bench.
The petitioners were represented by Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani. He moved the top Court in June 2020 after the police registered cases against the petitioners for offences under the Indian Penal Code's Section 153A (promoting enmity between religious groups), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief). The FIRs were stayed by the Supreme Court till June 2020. Later, in September 2021, the top court stayed another FIR registered by the police.
The FIRs were registered in connection with different stories carried by OpIndia. The petitioners argued that though several other news outlets had also called articles and news pieces on the concerned subjects, the police registered FIRs only against them.