"Show us how fact-finding committee's report promoted enmity": Supreme Court directs complainant to file response in EGI's plea

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"Can you use press freedom as a license to come to Supreme Court and say quash this complaint, what will be my remedy if matter is transferred..", the complainant submitted before court today

The Supreme Court today asked the complainant on whose account FIRs were lodged against Editors Guild President Seema Mustafa, and the fact-finding committee comprising journalists Seema Guha, Bharat Bhushan and Sanjay Kapoor in Manipur, to show court how the alleged offence were made out against them.

"You have to show us how we can make out even a whisper of these offence mentioned in the complaint..your entire complaint is a counter narrative of the government..making a false statement in an article is not an offence under 153A..", CJI DY Chandrachud told Sr. Advocate Guru Krishnakumar, who appeared for the complainant.

Thus, while extending the interim reliefs granted to the journalists before it, court has granted two weeks to the complainant to file a counter. Permission to implead the complainant has also been granted.

Notably, the complainant appeared before the bench today to make a case against the transfer of FIRs to Delhi.

Krishnakumar told the bench comprising Justices Pardiwala and Manoj Misra that this was not a fact-finding report, but a KUKI blaming report which was completely biased and had to be investigated.

"Please how they are painting black one community..sweeping statements have been made..This report is acting as a mouthpiece for one side of people..this adds to animosity between the groups", Krishnakumar added.

At the beginning of the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had informed the bench that the Manipur High Court was fully functional and virtual hearings were being facilitated.

"..the picture that was presented on the last hearing by Sr Adv Anand Grover that bar is not functioning, HC is not functioning..is completely false..Mr. Grover appeared virtually before the High Court six times, Mr. Colin Gonsalves has appeared two times in the last month..this image that has been created, that bar is not co-operating is wrong..", the SG added.

Senior Advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the petitioners, argued for approached the Delhi High Court in the matter by saying that an avalanche of hate was created against EGI and the petitioners and there was an element of personal safety involved.

"Instead of a position being taken that free speech must be protected, there are lawyers offices being ransacked..At the end of the day, this report was created bona fide, and this was a very volatile situation..there is noting but hate and poison against journalists who were just doing their jobs..", Divan added.

Divan further told the court about a PIL being filed in Manipur asking the Centre and state governments not to rely on this report, wherein the petitioners were made respondents.

On Monday, the EGI's fact-finding committee told the Supreme Court that it was invited by the army to examine media reporting of incidents across Manipur. 

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for members of the committee submitted, "We were invited by the Army..please see the letter sent to us by them.. To see how the local media was covering the situation, we have submitted a report, now penal provisions cannot be imposed on us for doing so..".

To this, CJI had asked, "Why would the army invite you...".

Last week, the Supreme Court had granted interim protection to Editors Guild President Mustafa, and the members of the fact-finding committee.

The Court was initially inclined to grant protection for a limited period of one week and asked the petitioners to avail other remedies available to them under law.

Divan, however, insisted that the protection should be for longer period citing the case of Advocate Deeksha Dwivedi.

"There are some additional factors. After the report was published on 2nd and after FIRs were registered, the Chief Minister made a statement in a press conference stating that EGI has stoked controversy by making provocative statements etc," Court was further told. 

Case Title: Seema Guha vs. State of Manipur