New Delhi, September 6 (IANS): The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted interim protection to the president and three editors of the Editors Guild of India (EGI) against any coercive action in relation to the FIRs lodged by the Manipur Police for releasing an alleged "biased and factually inaccurate" report on the ethnic conflict in the northeastern state.
“Issue notice…. Till the next date of listing, no coercive steps shall be taken against the petitioners in connection with the FIRs registered,” ordered a bench comprising Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, while posting the matter for hearing on September 11, Monday.
Advocate Kanu Agrawal, representing Manipur, requested the court to hear the plea on Monday. “If it could be taken on Monday…. Milords may send it to the High Court and the High Court may decide it on its own merits,” he said.
The bench indicated that it may remit the matter to the Manipur High Court for consideration.
At this, said senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the members of the fact-finding committee formed by EGI said: “I would request your lordships to call this out on Monday. Please protect me till Monday. We will place on record also serious apprehensions…. May I indicate two-three factors and your lordships can take a full comprehensive view.”
Divan added that after the FIRs were registered, Chief Minister N. Biren Singh personally held a press conference and made a statement.
Earlier in the day, the top court agreed to urgently hear the writ petition filed by president of the EGI and three editors -- Seema Guha, Bharat Bhushan and Sanjay Kapoor challenging the FIRs filed by Manipur Police after they visited the northeastern state last month to study media reportage of the ethnic violence and the circumstantial aspects.
“There is a very grave urgency in the case... Essentially, we are seeking emergent protection from arrest and coercive steps,” said Divan, while mentioning the plea. He said that his clients were apprehending the arrest by Manipur Police.
A three-member fact-finding team of EGI after visiting Manipur, published its report in New Delhi last week, claiming that the media's reports on the ethnic violence in Manipur were one-sided, and accused the state leadership of being partisan.
“It should have avoided taking sides in the ethnic conflict but it failed to do its duty as a democratic government which should have represented the entire state,” the 24-page EGI report said in its conclusions and recommendations.
The FIR stated that the EGI report captioned a photo of a burning building in Manipur’s Churachandpur district as a “Kuki house”.
The building, however, was a Forest Department beat office that was set on fire by a mob on May 3, the day when large-scale violence broke out in the district along with other parts of the state.
The EGI, however, on Sunday, in a post on X said: “There was an error in a photo caption in the report released on Sep 2. The same is being rectified and an updated report will be uploaded on the link shortly. We regret the error that crept in at the photo editing stage.”