28 April 2023 1:16 PM GMT
Opposing a plea for clubbing of first information reports (FIR) lodged against YouTuber Manish Kashyap over spreading fake news about attacks against Bihari migrants in Tamil Nadu, the Tamil Nadu government has told the Supreme Court that he cannot “seek the shelter of the umbrella of constitutional rights” after disturbing public order and national integrity. “Freedom of speech is...
Opposing a plea for clubbing of first information reports (FIR) lodged against YouTuber Manish Kashyap over spreading fake news about attacks against Bihari migrants in Tamil Nadu, the Tamil Nadu government has told the Supreme Court that he cannot “seek the shelter of the umbrella of constitutional rights” after disturbing public order and national integrity. “Freedom of speech is not absolute, and should be exercised with caution and responsibility,” the state government has said in an affidavit.
The state of Tamil Nadu has told the top court:
“The contention that there was complete abuse of the process of law by registering multiple FIRs is not sustainable. The due process of law was followed by the respondent police in all the FIRs registered in Tamil Nadu. The registration of multiple FIRs was not done with any political intention, nor to suppress the constitutional rights of the accused, but with the intention to stop the spread of misinformation and to ensure that the person guilty of such offences do not escape from the clutches of law. Freedom of speech and expression is not absolute but should be exercised with caution and responsibility. By disturbing public order and national integrity, the accused cannot seek shelter under the umbrella of constitutional rights.”
The affidavit, sworn by an additional director general of the Tamil Nadu police, states:
“Through the false and unverified videos, the accused attempted to instigate violence between Bihari migrant labourers and the people of Tamil Nadu and create enmity among different groups on the grounds of language. [He] also disturbed public peace and tranquillity and created a volatile law and order situation in the State. Apart from that, the false news created a panic situation in both Tamil Nadu and Bihar and their administrations were kept on their toes for more than a week. A great amount of fear and panic was created among the families of migrant labourers and the administrations of both the states had to give a lot of effort to defuse the insecure atmosphere that was made to prevail.”
After outlining the multi-pronged approach adopted by the police departments of the two states to fight the nationwide disinformation campaign, which included visiting various factories and labour camps in Tamil Nadu and interacting with the migrant workers, and countering the rumours and propaganda on social media, the government has claimed that if not for these efforts, violence and riots would have been triggered in the southern state, causing damage to life and property, apart from threatening the national integrity beyond repair. The affidavit further states that since around 10 lakh migrant labourers from all over the country are employed across the state, substantial damage would have also been caused to the economy of the country.
In support of the state government’s opposition to the clubbing of the FIRs lodged across the states of Bihar and Tamil Nadu, the affidavit seeks to refute a central argument advanced by the petitioner that all the FIRs have been registered for the same offence, and that the registration of multiple FIRs over the same incident is an abuse of law. The Tamil Nadu government has categorically stated that the complaints had been lodged for different offences committed by the YouTuber “by continuously posting videos which were false and unverified, inciting violence and hatred on social media platforms”. The contents of each video and the date on which it was posted are different. The affidavit also reveals that on conducting a comparative examination across the six FIRs registered against Kashyap in Tamil Nadu alone, the state government found that he had allegedly posted 17 videos across four social media platforms, out of which, “only four were found to be repeated in more than one FIR”. The affidavit adds, “Considering that the FIRs have been registered against different offences, clubbing them will not do any justice for the amount of panic and tension the accused has created across the states of Tamil Nadu and Bihar.”
Finally, the state government has assured the top court that all six cases are being investigated in a fair and unbiased manner and in accordance with the law. The investigations will also be conducted expeditiously, and charge sheets issued at the earliest, the Tamil Nadu government has submitted.
The State government further informed that Kashyap is at present lodged in Central Prison, Madurai, after detention under the National Security Act.
While issuing notice in Kashyap’s plea, an apex court bench headed by Chief Justice Chandrachud had expressed concerns over the state government invoking the preventive detention act., “Why NSA for this?” Justice Chandrachud had asked senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the Tamil Nadu government.
The petition, which was posted today, got adjourned to Monday (May 1). Notably, the Bihar Government's counsel also opposed the transfer of cases to Patna during the hearing last week.
Manish Kashyap @ Tripurari Kumar Tiwari v. Union of India & Ors. | Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 148 of 2023
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