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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Detention curtailment of liberty, says Tripura judge; journalists get bail

Advocate Pijush Kanti Biswas said allegations of communal hatred levelled against the two journalists weren’t found in the FIR.

Written by Debraj Deb | Agartala |
Updated: November 16, 2021 8:08:19 am
Samriddhi Sakunia and Swarna Jha, both writing for HW News Network were produced before a court in Tripura. (Express Photo)

Granting bail to two journalists who were arrested on Sunday over their reporting of the recent communal clashes in Tripura, a Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court in Gomati district on Monday said that while the offences are “serious in nature”, from the evidence on record, it appears that is not necessary to detain the accused in police custody. Doing so, the court said, “would be extreme curtailment of personal liberty”.

“The offences alleged are serious in nature. However, from the materials on record and submissions of both the sides, it appears to the court that the detention of the accused persons may not be necessary for the purpose of investigation. For the same reason, it is not necessary to detain the accused persons in police custody as the same is extreme curtailment of personal liberty,” said the court of CJM Subhra Nath.

The journalists, Samriddhi K Sakunia and Swarna Jha, who were reporting for HW News Network, were arrested at Nilambazaar in Karimganj district of Assam and brought back by a special team of the Tripura Police, before being produced in court on Monday.

Ganesh Jagtap, Managing Director of the Mumbai-based HW News Network, a digital news channel, said, “They were arrested on Sunday and produced in court on Monday and we represented through our advocate and bail was granted. Police have booked them for criminal conspiracy and spreading communal disharmony. This was for their individual tweets and did not pertain to our news items.’’

Jagtap, who was in government service in Maharashtra as deputy collector and later additional collector, handled the press for NCP leader and former Deputy CM R R Patil. He resigned from government service in 2011.

On Sunday, the Tripura Police had filed at least two FIRs against the journalists and booked them under IPC sections related to spreading communal disharmony and criminal conspiracy, among others.

While the first FIR is one a suo motu case filed by the Investigating Officer of a communal clash case being probed by the Kakraban police station in Gomati district, the other was registered at Fatikroy police station in Unakoti district, where the complainant, Kanchan Das, a local VHP activist, alleged that on Saturday, the two journalists visited the homes of Muslims in Paul Bazaar area of Fatikroy and “delivered instigating speech against Hindu and Tripura Govt”.

The journalists were arrested in the first case registered at Kakraban police station in Gomati district.

Granting bail to Sakunia and Jha on a bond of Rs 70,000, the court said, “If the accused persons are granted bail imposing stringent conditions of procuring their attendance for the purpose of the investigation, ensuring their availability to the investigating agencies, the purpose of investigation may suffice.”

The court instructed the journalists to appear before the Investigating Officer of the case as and when they are called and said they should co-operate with the investigation.

Speaking to reporters, senior advocate Pijush Kanti Biswas, who represented the journalists, said, “They had come to cover the news. In the last few days, news was being carried in national media about religious vandalism and attacks on some minority people. They came here to verify the truth and cover the news. They visited Udaipur and parts of North Tripura where there were allegations mosques were attacked and vandalised,” Biswas said.

On the IPC sections pertaining to spreading communal disharmony and criminal conspiracy under which the journalists were booked, the lawyer said, “FIR contents don’t construe any such offence. Their detention was done out of ill-intention… This arrest is an example of the arbitrary power of the police and their high handedness… It’s an attack on the rights to express the opinion of the citizens and media,” he said.

With Yogesh Naik, Mumbai

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