On Friday, the Supreme Court suspended proceedings in three FIRs filed in West Bengal against certain people, including the editors of a news web portal, regarding articles published by them.
The district court also sent notices to the government of West Bengal and to the Center for their responses to a plea filed by Nupur J Sharma, editor-in-chief of the English language Opindia.com, and others, including its founder. and CEO.
“Issue a notice. Subsequent proceedings under the FIRs are stayed,” said a bench made up of judges SK Kaul and BR Gavai in its order.
The bench heard a petition from Sharma and others, including the founder and CEO of the news portal and editor of its Hindi-language publications, who claimed that the government of West Bengal and its “authoritarian police of Kolkata “abused FIR and” brutal police powers “. “to intimidate journalists.
The petitioners were represented before the superior court by the main lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani and the lawyer Sandeep Kapur.
<< The petitioners are forced to invoke the extraordinary judicial competence of this court under article 32 of the Constitution against the manifestly extortion and bad faith acts of the government of West Bengal aimed at imposing illegal censorship in the "State by threatening, scuttling and gagging honest press houses through misuse of the state police," said the plea.
The petitioners claimed to have been informed that the cause of one of the police-filed FIRs was an article published by the information portal on the question of the alleged concealment of data related to COVID-19.
The plea alleged that one of the FIRs filed concerned a report published by the web portal in October of last year.
He alleged that, in order to infringe on press freedom, the State had instead chosen to “track down” the petitioners by registering several FIRs in order to “negotiate the suppression of press articles by putting the life and freedom of the petitioner in jeopardy. danger”.
He said that the state and the police not only intimidated journalists, but also threatened family members to demand the removal of media reports that alert the public to “the current situation in the state of West Bengal at this time.” difficult “.
The plea alleged that, while the authorities used the FIRs to “scuttle freedom of expression” and sent notices to the petitioners, the police, despite repeated requests, refused to share the copy of these FIRs or to download it from their official website.
“ What is glaring is the way in which the powers conferred by the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the powers of investigation by the police are manifestly misused by the State of West Bengal (defendant 1 ) to scuttle and silence in good faith, but critical cases of journalism, likely to embarrass its political leaders, in total disregard of the constitutional guarantees contained in articles 19 (1) (a) and 21 of the Constitution “, a- he declared.
He alleged that the police had intimidated some of the petitioners to have the press articles deleted.
“As a result, the officers, while insulting and humiliating the petitioner no. 1, asked her to use her influence to have the articles removed or to cope with the weight of the political leaders of the state,” he said. -he assures.
The advocacy argued that the removal of all content from the Internet had a national effect and that any decision to remove any content should be made by the Center and not by state governments.
He also asked for a directive to exclude the role of the police in removing content from the Internet “especially since there is a regulatory mechanism to monitor that content” and to restrict any malicious content.