On July 11, a few days after a First Information Report (FIR) was registered against three members of a fact-finding team that had gone to enquire into the recent violence in Manipur, the Supreme Court has granted interim protection to Advocate Deeksha Suivedi, the lawyer who was charged with sedition, conspiracy to wage war against India etc. On July 8, Annie Raja, General Secretary of the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), Nisha Siddhu, NFIW National Secretary; and Deeksha Duivedi had been booked at the Imphal Police Station for allegedly hurting the sentiments of the Meira Paibis in the state of Manipur.
The interim protection order was passed after the matter was urgently mentioned before a bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and Manoj Misra by Senior Advocate Siddhartha Dave. Senior Advocate Siddhartha Dave stated that the said petition has been filed by the petitioner under Article 32 of the Constitution for protection.
“She is 4 years into practice. She was part of 3 member of team of National Federation of Indian Women, associated with the Communist party. A press conference was held in Delhi. We learn that the offences are Section 121A, 124A, 153, 153A, and 153B of the Indian Penal Code. Two of the offences are punishable with life imprisonment”, Advocate Dave had stated, as stated by Livelaw. Advocate Dave also informed that the petitioner is yet to receive a copy of the FIR.
Notably, the aforementioned three women activists and advocates had been charged under the following sections of the Indian Penal Code: Section 121-A (Waging or attempting to wage war against the Government of India), 124 (Assaulting President, Governor, etc., with intent to compel or restrain the exercise of any lawful power), 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot ) 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), 153-B (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration ), 499 (Defamation), 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace ), 505(2)/34 (any statement rumour with common intention).
Assertions made by the Petitioner
Advocate Dwivedi argued in her petition to the Supreme Court that she had accompanied a two-woman delegation from the NIFW as an independent lawyer and observer, as reported by the Bar and Bench. After the investigation, a news conference was held in Imphal on July 1 and a press release with the team’s findings was also released. The said the NIFW team had come to the conclusion that the State was behind several violent episodes in Manipur, and thus termed them to be “state sponsored”. Following this, the Manipur Police filed an FIR, charging Dwivedi and NIFW representatives with sedition, defamation, making assertions prejudicial to national-integration and, other related offences.
The petitioner drew attention to the fact that, despite the fact that the NIFW team’s press release served as the basis for the FIR, she had not signed it. She further argued that the press release’s contents were not seditious nor did they constitute the additional offences listed in Sections 153, 153B, 499, 504, 505 (2), and 34 of the Indian Penal Code. The petitioner also highlighted that there were no untoward reactions or incidents as a result of this press release, as provided by the Bar and Bench.
“The contents of the press release are based on the interviews with the local women and are bonafide representations of their concerns, bringing forth their account of incidents … The Petitioner conveyed the sense of frustration and helplessness that they had encountered in the relief camps. It is submitted that similar reports have found place in several national newsprint and national media, which only goes to further strengthen that none of the contents of the said press release either make any factually incorrect statement and/or seek to mislead the public,” the plea stated, as reported by the Bar and Bench.
Order of the Court
The bench passed the order as follows:
“Mr. Siddharth Dave, learned Senior Counsel has mentioned the proceedings for urgent orders because there is an apprehension that the petitioner, who is a member of the bar with four years standing, is likely to be arrested. The petitioner has submitted that she does not have a copy of the FIR at this stage. We have requested Mr. Dave to ensure that the copy of the petition be served on the advocate instructing the Solicitor General of India. The SG may take instructions on the background of the case. List on Friday. Till 5 PM on Friday, no coercive steps be taken against the petitioner in pursuance of FIR no….”, as reported by LiveLaw.
The Court has now listed the case for further hearing on July 14, Friday. In meanwhile, the Court directed that no coercive steps should be taken against the petitioner.