The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain a plea seeking an inquiry by the National Investigation Agency into a “toolkit”, or campaign material, allegedly created by the Congress to tarnish the reputation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the central government for its management of the coronavirus pandemic, Bar and Bench reported.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah told the petitioner, Advocate Shashank Shekhar Jha, that such documents are part of political propaganda.
“If you don’t like the toolkit, ignore the toolkit,” Chandrachud said, adding that the Supreme Court’s time was being taken up by “frivolous petitions”.
Jha contended that the alleged document used the term “Indian variant” for a mutant strain of coronavirus. He submitted that the usage was “communal” in nature. He sought directions from the court to investigate the document under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Live Law reported.
The court, however, did not agree to his submissions and pointed out that Article 32 of the Constitution could not be entertained against political propaganda. Article 32 empowers the Supreme Court to issue orders related to writ petitions.
“India is a democracy, you know,” the court said. “Why should we issue directions under Article 32?”
The court asked Jha to withdraw the writ petition and seek legal remedies other than Article 32.
The ‘toolkit’ matter
On May 18, Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sambit Patra had tweeted a document alleging that Congress had created the campaign material on the Central Vista project in Delhi and the Centre’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. However, Twitter labelled Patra’s tweet as “manipulated media”.
The Congress said that the “toolkit” was fake. Fact-checking website AltNews also found that the document was created on a fake Congress letterhead.
Chhattisgarh Police lodged a case against Patra and BJP leader Raman Singh on a complaint filed by president of the state unit of Congress’ youth wing. However, Chhattisgarh High Court has stayed the police investigation into the matter.
The term “toolkit” was used often earlier this year after climate activist Disha Ravi was arrested by the Delhi Police in February for allegedly sharing and editing a document intended to amplify the protests against the new farm laws. The “toolkit” – a common term used by social activists for campaign material – was also tweeted by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
Granting bail to Ravi in the case, a Delhi court had noted that “being editor of an innocuous toolkit” was not an offence. The court had upheld that the right to dissent was guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution, suggesting that the founding fathers of the country “accorded due respect to the divergence of opinion”.