Tripura violence: SC agrees to hear plea by journalists, lawyers, others booked under UAPA

The Supreme Court agreed to hear a petition on Thursday that was challenging the Tripura Police’s decision to file FIR against journalists, lawyers, and activists under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for social media posts about the ongoing communal violence in the state, Live Law reported.

Claiming that authorities wanted to stop the spread of rumors that could disrupt peace in the state, the police had booked 102 Twitter handles under the UAPA earlier this week.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan mentioned the petition on Thursday before a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana.

“This is regarding incidents in Tripura and FIRs and 41 A notices issued to lawyers who went on fact-finding mission, as some tweeted that Tripura is burning,” he said.

CJI Ramana suggested that the petition can be heard by the High Court. Bhushan, however, said that the petition has also challenged two provisions of the anti-terror law, which are “being misused and abused at a great deal”, including the wide definition of “unlawful activities”.

Urging the chief justice to take up the matter urgently, he said those booked are “imminently under threat”. Therefore, Ramana agreed to fix a date for the hearing.

Last month, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad had organized a protest rally in Tripura on October 26 after attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh which had led to violence and vandalization of mosques, including shops and homes of Muslims.

However, the Tripura police have repeatedly claimed that the law and order situation was “absolutely normal” in the state and no mosques had been burnt.

Meanwhile, a report by lawyers of a fact-finding team said that about 12 mosques, nine shops, three Muslim houses were targeted during the violence. “The violence erupted due to the irresponsibility of the administration, along with extremist organizations and the vested interests of ambitious politicians,” the report said.

Advocate Ehtesham Hashmi, Amit Srivastava, Ansar Indori, and Mukesh Kumar have been booked by the police under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The state police have also written to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to freeze the accounts of the nearly 102 social media users.

The police have sought action against accounts of journalists Mohammad Sartaj Alam, Shyam Meera Singh, and CJ Werleman, along with former Aligarh Muslim University student leader Sharjeel Usmani.

Shyam Singh said that he has been booked under the anti-terror law for writing, “Tripura is burning”.

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