GUWAHATI: The Supreme Court has extended protection to a retired colonel and a professor who are facing FIRs in Manipur, one for writing a book and the other for alleged hate speeches.
The top court’s bench, consisting of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, issued a notice on Tuesday and requested the retired army officer, Vijaykant Chenji, and Professor Henminlun to submit affidavits affirming that they were unable to secure legal representation in the Manipur High Court.
Until the next hearing date, no coercive actions will be taken against the petitioners, the apex court said.
Senior advocate Anand Grover, representing the petitioners, highlighted that lawyers withdrew from the case as their chambers and houses were ransacked in Manipur and the FIR against Chenji couldn’t be procured. He stressed that the retired colonel’s case pertained solely to a book and military tactics without any mention of the ongoing sectarian strife in the state.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Manipur government, noted a trend of directly approaching the Supreme Court and urged the bench not to entertain such petitions, highlighting that the Manipur High Court could handle these matters.
The bench proposed that they would verify the absence of legal representation and consider providing legal aid or seeking a report from the High Court’s Registrar General.
The retired colonel faced an FIR related to his book titled The Anglo-Kuki War 1917-1919 which was published in January 2022, while Professor Henminlun faced an FIR for making alleged hate speeches.
Previously, the Supreme Court had provided protection to four Editors Guild of India (EGI) members who were named in two FIRs. The Court had also asked for the Manipur government’s opinion on whether the plea to quash the FIRs and seek other remedies should be transferred to the Delhi High Court for further consideration.