Supreme Court rejects plea against BJP leaders Raman Singh, Sambit Patra in ‘toolkit’ case
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to interfere with an order by the Chhattisgarh high court staying investigation against former Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Sambit Patra in the alleged “toolkit” case but told the high court not to be influenced by the observations made in the FIR in deciding the petitions.
The Chhattisgarh government moved a petition against the June 11 interim order passed by a single judge of the Chhattisgarh high court that said that the FIR against Singh and Patra, among others, was politically motivated, borne out of political grudge and rivalry, and none of the offences contained in the FIR were made out. The high court order came on separate petitions by Singh and Patra.
Satisfied that a prima facie case was made out for staying of the FIR, the single judge stayed further proceedings in the case, and sought a response by the state government.
Dismissing the state’s appeal against the interim order, the bench headed by chief justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana said, “The special leave petition is dismissed. We request the High Court to dispose the petition expeditiously. The observations (made in the order) will not come in the way of the High Court in deciding the matter.”
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the Chhattisgarh government told the Supreme Court that with the scathing observations passed by high court, there was no scope left for the state government to get a fair hearing.
“The case made out by the court says that the FIR is only on the ground of malafide and political grudge. Since he is a political person, these findings are given straight away that no case is made out. What is left for me to go back for?” Singhvi said.
The bench, also comprising justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli said, “We are not interfering with the high court order. Let the high court decide finally. You will have the opportunity to challenge the final decision.”
The FIR against Singh and Patra among others was filed on May 19 at Civil Lines police station in Raipur on a complaint filed by the chief of the Chhattisgarh unit of the Congress-affilated National Students Union of India (NSUI). The case was registered under sections relating to statements promoting enmity within community, causing breach of public tranquillity, forgery to harm reputation, and disobedience of orders by a public servant.
The FIR said that Singh and Patra, through their Twitter handles, tweeted images showing an alleged toolkit prepared by the Indian National Congress (INC). The tweets in question were posted on May 18 showing a document allegedly issued by “AICC Research Department”. These posts accused the Congress of hatching a conspiracy to discredit the country in the international media by taking advantage of the pandemic situation. Twitter tagged the tweets by Singh and Patra among several others who tweeted the document as “manipulated media”.
As per Twitter policy, this tag is given to such content where the microblogging site has reason to believe that the said media or the context in which it is presented is significantly and deceptively altered or manipulated.
In the FIR registered with the Chhattisgarh Police, the Congress claimed that the document tweeted by the accused was on an allegedly forged letterhead of All India Congress Committee(AICC) and this amounted to spreading false and fabricated content.
Simultaneously, even the Delhi Police took up the probe into the same events following a complaint and questioned the Twitter India Managing Director and visited Twitter offices in Delhi and Gurgaon in connection with their action to flag the tweets as “manipulated”.
The case had also seen the intervention of the Union government which issued notices to Twitter to remove the “manipulated” tags as it amounted to prejudging the veracity of tweets which is a subject matter of investigation by the law enforcement agencies.