Updated: December 24, 2021 4:21:03 am
The High Court of Tripura has rejected a plea to quash FIRs filed against former minister and MLA Bhanulal Saha over social media posts in which he purportedly urged youths to take up “weapons” such as sticks, daos (machetes) and iron rods in “self-defence” against alleged political attacks.
Justice T Amarnath Goud issued the order on December 18, which was made available to The Indian Express on Thursday.
In May, Saha, who held Finance among other portfolios in the previous government under Manik Sarkar, posted on Facebook, “Keep sticks, da, iron pipes etc (legally vegetable weapons) handy, irrespective of women-men-teens-aged, in every house for mass resistance for their bricks, kicks, petrol bombs. Gather courage to face outsider attackers. It’s not a crime to pick up things for self-defence. It’s impossible to protect life and property without resistance. O youth, turn into fire. Hundreds-thousands of youths, be ready. Resist lumpens and ruling party goons with courage. Join people from the locality and be in leadership.”
A resident of Hapania in West Tripura, Dipak Malakar, filed a complaint against Saha and former Tripura Left Front convener, late Bijan Dhar, who also put up a social media post the same day, for making inflammatory social media posts.
The complaint against Dhar, who died in October, was that he urged people to be ready and carry out “resistance” if there were attacks. He purportedly posted, “Today at Badharghat area those who carried out the attack at house to house, if police doesn’t take any action, culprits must be taught a lesson by everyone collectively, not acceptable any more…”
Several other complaints were lodged against them at different police stations across Tripura in the subsequent days, contending that the social media posts posed a risk of law and order disturbance.
The CPI(M) alleges that there has been a concerted attack on its cadres and leaders by activists of the ruling BJP in the state.
Alleging that the two leaders were booked in “illegal case” in a vindictive manner, CPI(M) state secretary Jitendra Chaudhury moved the High Court and sought to quash the FIRs on the ground that the statements concerned did not provoke or disturb peace. Chaudhury mentioned in his plea that multiple FIRs cannot be filed for a single cause of action.
The petition stated that social media posts of Saha, Dhar and socially relevant posts of other users cannot be read together, and should be seen as standalone cases.
After hearing the arguments, Justice Goud said in his order that Saha should not be made to answer to different FIRs and investigation before different police stations over the same complaint.
The court rejected the plea to quash FIRs against Saha and observed that it was “premature” to come to a conclusion, as the petition didn’t deny Saha had put up the social media post in question.
The order read: “…Unless the investigation is completed and charge sheet is filed at the threshold, quashing of FIR on the ground that the statement made is ‘stand alone’ cannot be accepted since the posting on Facebook during the above period made by the persons from the said political party, needs a serious examination. The investigating agency must be allowed to gather evidence and investigate the contentions in the FIR.”
While ordering that inquiries of all relevant FIRs should be conducted at one location, the High Court said the police should complete their probe and submit a charge sheet.
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