The Supreme Court on Monday extended the interim protection granted to members of the Editors Guild of India over its investigation on the media coverage of ethnic violence in Manipur till September 11, Live Law reported.
A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud said that the case pertained to just publication of a report and was not about someone committing an offence on the ground.
Two first information reports were filed against the authors of the fact-finding report – Seema Guha, Bharat Bhushan and Sanjay Kapoor – and the president of the Editors Guild of India, Seema Mustafa. The complainants had alleged that the report was false, fabricated and sponsored by narco-terrorists.
Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh had said that the Editors Guild did not have the authority to constitute a fact-finding team to conduct an investigation in the state. “They are anti-state, anti-national, and anti-establishment [people] who came to pour venom,” Singh had said. “Had I known it before, would not have allowed them to enter.”
The Editors Guild had sought directions from the Supreme Court to quash the two FIRs. The four members were granted an interim protection on September 6.
The bench, also comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, on Monday said that it was not inclined to quash the FIRs itself and was contemplating whether the matter should be transferred to the Delhi High Court or should be heard by the Manipur High Court.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing on behalf of one of the petitioners, asserted that the Editors Guide did not voluntarily go to Manipur but was invited by the Army.
“We did not volunteer to go there,” Sibal told the court, according to Live Law. “It is the Army which requested us…Please see the letter of the Army to the Editors Guild. This is an invitation by the Army to the Editors Guild saying see what is happening there – unethical, ex-parte reporting by the vernacular media. It is at their invitation that we went.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that he would not argue on the merits of the case and that the matter can be heard by the Manipur High Court.
“I just don’t want this to be a national political issue, which possibly seems to be the intention,” he added.
The case will now be heard on September 15.