We Could Have Protected You If You Were Not In Custody: SC Denies Relief To YouTuber Journalist Manish Kashyap
The Supreme Court has issued a notice on the plea filed by digital media Journalist Manish Kashyap challenging multiple FIRs lodged in the State of Bihar and the State of Tamil Nadu against him for YouTube videos allegedly containing fake news about violence against Bihari migrant workers in Tamil Nadu.
The Court refused to pass any interim relief in favour of Manish, stating that he is already under incarceration. His Counsel had prayed for an interim order that he may not be taken on production warrant to another state.
The Bench of Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Sanjay Karol while issuing notice to the State of Bihar and the Union of India remarked, "We could have protected you if you were not in custody". The Bench asked the states of Bihar and Tamil Nadu to file their replies in the shortest possible time and adjourned the matter to April 21, 2023.
Appearing for the petitioner, Senior Advocate Siddhartha Dave along with Advocates Aditya Deshwal and Ridam Arora submitted that the petitioner is a journalist and runs a Youtube channel by the name of 'Sach Tak' in Bihar.
"He was following up on the story about the attack on migrants in Tamil Nadu", Dave submitted.
"Three FIRs are registered against him. When he is arrested in Bihar, the state of Tamil Nadu wakes up and registers two FIRs against him in two separate Districts. He is taken on a production warrant to Tamil Nadu where he is presently lodged and his bail has been rejected. He is presently in the custody of the Tamil Nadu police", Dave told the Court.
He is facing five prosecutions in two states for the same posting. One incident cannot lead to multiple FIRs, Dave submitted on behalf of Manish.
"Let one state investigate. Otherwise, I will never get out on bail", Dave said.
Let the first FIR in Bihar be the lead FIR. Let there be a hands-off approach as far as the FIRs in Tamil Nadu are concerned, he submitted.
He also told the Court that the content created by Manish was in Hindi and that he does not speak Tamil. "It is astounding that NSA has been invoked in this case", he added.
Appearing for the State of Tamil Nadu on caveat, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibbal submitted, "This is far more serious than what my friend has suggested" and sought time to file a reply to the petition.
He further argued that it is not for the same incident for which the multiple FIRs are lodged and that the offences are different. They are different cases. The content is different. There are different URLs. Offences are different. You cant consolidate the FIRs, Sibal submitted.
He submitted to the Court that there were nine FIRs against Manish prior to this incident.
Usually, Sibal is on this side, said Senior Advocate Siddhartha Dave, suggesting that Sibal usually appears for journalists who are facing criminal action by the state. "I am against fake news. Fake news and hate speech", Sibal submitted.
Please list it after 15 days or two weeks, Sibal submitted.
"I may not be taken on production to another state" Dave submitted, adding that his client is being taken back and forth between Bihar and Tamil Nadu.
"Wait for a week", Bench responded.
The Court then issued notice and posted the matter for April 21, 2023, for further consideration.
The petitioner was arrested on March 18. On April 5, a Madurai district court remanded Manish to judicial custody for 15 days. He was sent to the Madurai central prison, where he was to remain till April 19.
Manish's plea before the Apex Court seeks interim bail and clubbing of multiple FIRs, which were registered against him in the States of Bihar and Tamil Nadu.
Cause Title: Manish Kashyap @ Tripurari Kumar Tiwari v. Union of India & Ors.