Supreme Court notice to Centre, Tripura gov’t on plea seeking SIT probe

FIRs not registered, not a single arrest, but 41a notices sent to lawyers, UAPA against journalists, Prashant Bhushan tells the Supreme Court

Tripura Violence

The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Central and Tripura governments on a plea for an investigation by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the incidents of violence in Tripura against the Muslim community. In the case titled Ehtesham Hashmi vs. Union of India, senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, told the Court that the state was “not registering FIRs, sending 41a notices to lawyers who had produced that Fact-Finding report, invoking UAPA against journalists who had reported about this violence, not a single arrest has been made!”

A Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna was hearing the petition filed by advocate Ehtesham Hashmi seeking the Court’s intervention in alleged hate crimes that took place in Tripura in October. Hashmi, according to legal news portals, submitted before the court that he had personally visited riot affected areas of the state along with other Delhi based advocates, and published a fact-finding report about the visit. According to the petitioner, the following findings were arrived at after meeting with families and persons who were at the receiving end of the vandalism, stated the plea:

a) 12 Mosques were damaged;

b) 9 shops owned by Muslim businessmen were damaged; 

c) 3 houses owned by Muslims were vandalised.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan told the Court that instead of taking adequate steps to prevent the hate crimes that took place over a period of ten days, or providing adequate relief to the victims, the respondents were hand in glove with the perpetrators, reported Bar and Bench.

The plea stated that, “The West Agartala Police Station has sent a notice u/s 41 A of the Criminal Procedure Code to two of the advocates that had accompanied the petitioner to conduct a fact-finding exercise and document the incidents of violence, imputing that it was their social media posts, statements and Report which were responsible for “promoting enmity between religious groups as well as provoking people of different religious communities to commit breach of peace,” adding that the police had invoked the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) against 102 people, including journalists, for reporting and writing on the violence,” stated the news report.

The plea stated that the conduct of the police was “arbitrary and mala fide” and affected the victims’ right to justice and was also violative of Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution of India and also plea additionally sought directions to the respondents to “comply with the principles laid down in the judgment of the Supreme Court in Tehseen Poonawalla v. Union of India”. In that case, the SC had directed that action must be taken for ‘failure to act’ by the police, therefore making way for individual criminal responsibility for erring police officials for acts of ‘omission or commission’, reported Live Law on the petition’s highlights. 

The Tripura High Court had also taken suo motu cognisance of the incident and recently asked the state government to specify details for computing the amount of compensation awarded in favour of the victims.

The plea also alleged, “Police and State authorities instead of attempting to stop the violence kept on claiming that there was no communal tension anywhere in Tripura and further denied reports of any mosque being set ablaze,” adding that it was a “shocking state of affairs where Muslims are openly targeted by rioters and no protection has been extended to them by the Respondents and no arrests of said rioters has been made by the police authorities.” The notice is made returnable in 2 weeks, the matter will be heard on December 13.

Over 10 days ago the Supreme Court of India had ordered that “no coercive steps be taken” against the two lawyers who were part of a fact-finding team that visited Tripura to investigate the communal violence that broke out in the state in October, and journalist Shyam Meera Singh who had written a social media post about the violence. They had all been booked under the draconian anti-terror law Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) by the Tripura Police for posting their opinions on social media, related to the recent communal violence in the state.


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