Updated: March 17, 2021 10:30:15 pm
The Tripura High Court on Wednesday quashed a lookout notice issued by the state police against Saumen Sarkar, an NRI who is alleged to have published a series of defamatory and false news reports on his portal Tripurainfoway, saying it can’t curtail the ‘personal liberty’ of the petitioner.
The court also directed the police and other authorities against taking any coercive measures, including impounding his passport, without the order of a competent criminal court.
Reading out the order, Justice Subhashish Talapatra said, “This court cannot shut its eyes to the right of the petitioner. The action which curtails or takes away the personal liberty has to be reasonable and proportionate and has to be considered not in the abstract or hypothetical considerations.”
Quashing the lookout circular, the court asked officers concerned to close the investigation at the earliest, while saying that its observations shouldn’t be interpreted as its opinion on the merit of the investigation.
In his petition, Sarkar said his elderly parents, both of whom reside in Tripura, were harassed, threatened and intimidated by the police.
“…the clause 10(3)(h) will not apply in the case of the petitioner as there is no warrant of arrest or summons for appearance pending. It is apparent that the passport authority has refused to act in accordance with the request made by the respondents No. 1, 2 and 3,” the order said.
Briefing the media on the court’s pronouncement, Amitabha Roy, the petitioner’s counsel, said three defamation cases were filed against Sarkar by CPI(M) state secretary Gautam Das and former Left Front minister Sahid Choudhury, in 2017 and 2018, as well as another by Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb in 2019.
The lookout circular (LOC) was issued in January last year after he visited his parents in Tripura. In his petition, he claimed that criminal cases were filed against him in a bid to stop him from publishing news articles on his portal and the lookout notice was a ploy to restrict his movements within the country.
After hearing arguments from both sides, the high court observed, “No warrant of arrest issued by any court against the petitioner is pending and the petitioner is being represented by his engaged counsel. The notice under Section 41A of the CrPC was issued at a time when it was physically impossible for the petitioner to travel to India for (the) contagion (Covid-19 lockdown). Hence, his inability to appear before the police cannot be termed as deliberate”.
Justice Talapatra, however, directed the petitioner to give information on his whereabouts to the investigating agency and respond to summons issued by criminal courts and ensure compliance with their orders.
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