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Supreme Court warns Tripura on social media crackdown

The state had witnessed attacks on minorities following communal violence in Bangladesh during last year’s Durga Puja
Supreme Court.
Supreme Court.
File photo

R. Balaji   |   New Delhi   |   Published 08.02.22, 03:02 AM

The Supreme Court on Monday warned the Tripura government not to “harass” people for their social media posts on the recent communal violence in the state.

Petitioner Samiullah Shabbir Khan, whom the apex court had on January 10 protected from arrest, had on Monday alleged the Tripura police had again served notices summoning him and several other people who had posted tweets or messages about the violence.

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“Mr Roy, please inform your SP (superintendent of police) not to harass people like this. Why should everybody be required to run to the Supreme Court?” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud told the Tripura government’s standing counsel, Shuvodeep Roy.

“Once we have passed an order covering an issue, albeit in one case, you must show the responsibility and show some deference to the court. Otherwise, we will call your SP to be present… if he is trying to evade complying with the order by issuing all these kinds of notices to others.”

Justice Chandrachud, who headed a bench that included Justice Surya Kant, added: “We will ask your officers to be present here, including the home secretary. Otherwise there is no other way.”

Tripura had witnessed attacks on minorities following communal violence in Bangladesh — on which the Hasina government had acted quickly — during last year’s Durga Puja.

On Monday, when Khan’s case came up for hearing again, the bench indicated it would extend the interim order against arrest by another two weeks.

Khan’s counsel, advocate Sharukh Alam, then said that Agartala police had served fresh notices on her client and several other citizens, including some students and other activists, summoning them for their posts on the communal violence.

She said that although the physical copy of the court’s January 10 order had not reached the Tripura authorities, the directions had been widely reported in the media.

“That order hasn’t reached the police superintendent. I (Khan) was issued with a notice asking me to appear before Agartala police today. That (court) order was well reported by the media,” Alam said.

When Justice Chandrachud asked Roy to communicate the court’s order to the authorities, he pleaded: “Lordships may hold on (adjourn) the matter for two weeks.”

Justice Kant asked: “What do you mean, hold over for two weeks, when you have issued notice for today?”

Solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Union government, assured the bench he would personally look into the matter so that the sanctity of the court’s order was respected.

The bench later passed a fresh order saying that since the court had already passed an order on January 10 restraining any coercive action against Khan, “no further steps shall be taken in pursuance to the notice… pending further orders”.

The written order had not been uploaded on the apex court website till late in the night.

Earlier in November, the apex court had restrained the Tripura government from taking any “coercive steps including arrest” against a journalist and two advocates whom the state police had booked under terror and criminal laws for their social media posts on the communal violence.



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