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regular-article-logo Friday, 14 June 2024

Supreme Court directs Tripura cops not to take action against lawyer

Ehtesham Hashmi has sought an independent SIT probe into last October’s communal violence following the vandalism during Durga Puja in Bangladesh

R. Balaji New Delhi Published 26.02.22, 12:05 AM
Supreme Court.

Supreme Court. File photo

The Supreme Court on Friday directed Tripura police not to take coercive action against Ehtesham Hashmi, a Delhi-based lawyer who has sought an independent SIT probe into last October’s communal violence in the northeastern state following the vandalism during Durga Puja in Bangladesh.

The court, however, asked the petitioner to raise his plea for an independent probe by a special investigation team before Tripura High Court, which had earlier taken suo motu cognisance of the violence.

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A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant requested the high court to permit Hashmi to intervene and appear through a video link either in person or through a counsel, after he expressed apprehension of arrest by the police.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan who appeared for Hashmi recalled that communal violence had taken place in October during which mosques were burnt and Muslims attacked. He complained that the police had failed to even register FIRs in several cases.

Instead, Bhushan alleged, cases under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and penal code sections were booked against Hashmi and others who had posted information relating to the incidents on social media.

“We are asking for a SIT due to the partisan behaviour of the Tripura government and the state police,” Bhushan said.

He pointed out that in the status report filed before Tripura High Court, the state had acknowledged some incidents of violence but the chief minister had gone on record saying mosques had not been set ablaze.

In reply to a query from Justice Chandrachud, Bhushan submitted that the high court was not going into the issue of alleged inaction by the state government.

Justice Chandrachud remarked: “If the high court is seized of the matter, at the moment our taking up the case now will be an expression of no confidence in one of our high courts, which we should not be doing. We should wait for the outcome.”

When Bhushan repeated that the high court had not taken cognisance of the alleged inaction by the state government, the bench noted that this could be on account of the matter pending before the Supreme Court. Hashmi’s petition in the apex court had complained of inaction by the Tripura government.

The Supreme Court bench said the petitioner would be permitted to intervene and assist the high court, which can examine the contentions raised by Hashmi.

The top court agreed that no coercive action should be taken against Hashmi if he chooses to appear in Tripura High Court in person.

Solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said: “I wish and hope that Mr Bhushan and petitioners like him show the same alacrity for such violence in other states. I leave it here.”

Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, on behalf of the Tripura government, drew attention to alarming social media posts. “At least let the petitioner (Hashmi) come and assist the police and answer the questions,” Jethmalani said. Bhushan replied: “I can show what the police is doing.”

Mehta intervened to say: “I can also show how and what they post on social media. Just being an advocate practising here is no ground to bypass the high court.”

The SG pleaded that Hashmi submit an undertaking that he would not make inflammatory posts.

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