Hate Speech Case Registered In Manipur: Supreme Court Dismisses Plea Seeking Quashing Of FIR, Asks Petitioner To Approach Manipur High Court
The Supreme Court refused to entertain the Writ Petition filed by one Henminlun, challenging the FIR lodged against him for alleged hate speeches in Manipur. The Court, during the last hearing, was informed by the Petitioner that they were unable to engage lawyers in the High Court. However, upon learning that the High Court was functioning, the Supreme Court directed the Petitioner to approach the High Court for further proceedings.
During the initial stages of the hearing, Senior Advocate Anand Grover informed the bench comprising Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice J.B. Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra that, due to the Manipur Violence, one community is no longer present in Imphal. Grover stated that simultaneously, the lawyers from another community, who had previously represented him in a different case, had their homes and offices ransacked.
The Chief Justice responded by saying that Grover had previously argued the same point during the last hearing. On the last date of the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had submitted that there is a recent trend of a group consistently bringing every matter before the Supreme Court to create an impression that the Manipur High Court is not functioning effectively. The Court had directed the parties to file an affidavit, putting on oath their claim regarding the alleged non-availability of lawyers to represent them before the High Court of Manipur.
Accordingly, after considering the affidavits filed and the submissions made, the Bench in its order noted, "The Petitioner has moved these proceedings under Article 32 of the Constitution seeking to challenge an FIR registered against him for alleged offences under Section 153A, 505(1)(B) and 505(2) read with Section 34 IPC for speech which he is stated to have made on 28th July 2023. The initial grievance of the Petitioner was that the copy of the FIR was not made available to him. Moreover, it was alleged that the Petitioner was finding it difficult to engage a lawyer on his behalf."
Continuing, the Bench dictated, "A counter affidavit has been filed in these proceedings by the State of Manipur controverting the contents of the Petition under Article 32. We are of the view that the Petitioner should in facts of the present case be relegated to pursue the remedy under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure before the High Court."
The Bench also noted, "Should the Petitioner desire to be represented by the council through the video conferencing mode, the High Court shall permit appearance through video conferencing platform. In the event the petitioner seeks to be represented by legal aid counsel, the Secretary of the High Court Legal Service Committee shall ensure that counsel is provided to him free of cost. We clarify that we have not entered into the merits of the FIR registered against him."
After completing the order, Senior Advocate Grover made a further request to the Bench, seeking assurance of no coercive action. He also pointed out that although he can appear online, there is no internet facility available for him to send and file documents electronically. Emphasizing his concern, he mentioned that they had to resort to filing hard copies, which took three weeks to be delivered.
Taking this into account, the Chief Justice inquired with the Advocate General representing the State of Manipur about the current status. The Advocate General informed the Court that the e-filing system is now functional after the vacation of the High Court.
Consequently, the Bench issued the following order: "The Advocate General, appearing on behalf of the State of Manipur, assures the Court that the e-filing facility provided by the High Court will be available. In the event that the Petitioner encounters any difficulties in this regard, he will be at liberty to bring his grievance to the attention of the Registrar General of the High Court."
To facilitate the Petitioner in pursuing remedies before the High Court, the Bench directed that no action will be taken against the Petitioner for a period of two weeks from the date of this order. Additionally, the Solicitor General commented, "You have appeared virtually six times...".
In an exclusive conversation with Verdictum, Yumkham Rother, the Registrar General of the Manipur High Court said that the High Court is not only functioning normally as earlier, but it has adapted appropriately to the change in circumstances. He highlighted that the Court has implemented a hybrid system, allowing lawyers to participate either physically or virtually.
Cause Title: Henminlun v. The State Of Manipur [W.P.(Crl.) No. 000396 - / 2023]