‘Hope others would follow’, SC on Bengal withdrawing cases against journalists

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The Supreme Court on Thursday appreciated the stand taken by the West Bengal government for withdrawing FIR against OpIndia editor Nupur Sharma and another journalist, and remarked hope other states also follow the same approach.

A bench headed by Justice S.K. Kaul said it hoped the withdrawal of cases may become a new beginning and other state governments also refrain from initiating criminal proceedings against people having divergent views. The top court also expressed concern over diminishing tolerance among the people and added that it is the time for people including the political class to introspect.

The top court made these remarks after the West Bengal government told the top court that it has decided to withdraw FIRs registered against OpIndia editor Nupur Sharma and another journalist for articles published on the website. The petitioners had submitted that registration of the FIRs was an attempt to intimidate the journalists.

Senior advocate Siddhartha Dave, representing the state government, submitted that the state has decided to withdraw the FIRs registered against Sharma, Bharti and others.

While disposing of the plea, the bench said: “Journalists suffer consequences of what is in the public domain. Hope other (states) would follow.”

The petitioners had argued that FIRs were registered in connection with different stories carried by the OpIndia platform. They further contended that various other mainstream news outlets had also carried articles and news pieces on the concerned subjects. However, the police registered FIRs only against the petitioners.

Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani represented the petitioners. The petitioners had moved the top court in June 2020, after the police registered cases against them for offences under Section 153A (promoting enmity between religious groups), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the IPC. The apex court had stayed the FIRs in June 2020. The police had registered another FIR, which was also stayed by the top court in September 2021.

20211209-145821

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