The Supreme Court of India Wednesday ordered the Tripura police to refrain from taking any coercive measures, including arrest, against two lawyers and one journalist booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967 (UAPA) for their social media posts and reports on the recent communal violence in Tripura.
Several reports emerged from Bangladesh last month of unidentified Muslim men committing acts of violence against the Hindu minority and their temples. In the ensuing communal violence, at least six individuals died and hundreds sustained injuries. To protest against these incidents, Hindu organizations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad held rallies in northeast India’s Tripura. During these rallies, a mosque was allegedly vandalized and numerous shops and houses belonging to the Muslim minority were ransacked.
The Tripura police dismissed the reports as fake and stated that no mosques or shops were vandalized. Further, the police said they arrested six people for their role in the violence and registered cases against several social media posts. India’s Ministry of Home Affairs stated that there have been no reported cases of damage to any mosque in Tripura in the recent past.
However, a fact-finding report prepared with the assistance of Advocates Kumar Mukesh and Ansar Indori found that the rallies in Tripura attacked 12 mosques, nine shops and three houses belonging to Muslims. The report called for the formation of an inquiry commission to investigate communal violence. It also demanded punishments for those who spread false information on social media to incite violence.
One day after the fact-finding report was made public, the Tripura police sent a legal notice to Mukesh and Indori, informing them that a case has been filed against them under the UAPA for their social media posts and statements. Moreover, the Tripura police also booked journalist Shyam Meera Singh for tweeting “Tripura is burning.”
In response, the accused filed a writ petition before the Supreme Court to quash the proceedings. The petition also challenged the constitutionality of several provisions of the UAPA. The bench, headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, issued notice to the state and ordered that, “in the meantime, no coercive steps including arrest shall be taken against the petitioners.”
The bench ordered the Supreme Court’s registry to list the matter immediately after service is complete on the state.