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Tripura communal violence: HC tells state govt to act against social media spreading fake news, videos

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The Tripura High Court on Friday directed the Tripura government to initiate action against all social media platforms that continue to carry posts that are false, fictitious and or fabricated articles or visual footage and to see to it that such false news is removed at the earliest. 

The Court registered the suo motu public interest litigation on the basis of various press reports both in national newspapers as well as local newspapers on violence that broke out on October 26, 2021 in North Tripura District, Unakoti District as well as Sipahijala District. 

After the  Advocate General brought to the notice of the Division Bench of Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice S. Talapatra the developments, the Court indicated to the Advocate General its sole concern i.e. the protection of life, liberty and property of all citizens of Tripura. The AG further informed that all necessary steps are being taken by the State to ensure that such occurrences are not repeated.

The Advocate General provided a brief note indicating some of the important steps taken by the Tripura government to bring about communal harmony as well as action taken against the perpetrator of such violence. The AG also brought to the notice of the Court social media, in particular, has been carrying certain articles or visual footage which are either morphed and/or unrelated to Tripura with sole intent of once again reigniting the passions of people.

The Court then called upon social media platforms to act responsibly. Media has every right, as a part of their activities, to publish the truth. It should not be allowed to be used to spread untruth and spread communal passion, the order said. 

The Bench observed that there can be no reiteration that the State owes its responsibilities insofar as maintenance of law and order as well as providing citizens with the security to protect their life, livelihood as well as their properties. Today’s local newspapers of Tripura indicated that an uneasy calm is prevalent and no repetition of the occurrences which took place on October 26 has yet taken place. 

While taking note of the developments as noted, the Court considered it appropriate to take note of the fact that various peace committees have been formed in various locations where communal strife exists. While commending such efforts on the part of the state, the  Court also commended the steps taken by various political parties to restore peace and order within the state. 

Accordingly, the state may consider forming peace committees not only at district levels but also at sub-divisional levels and if necessary at panchayat levels as well and we call upon all political parties to participate fully in such peace process so that confidence of the people of the state can be restored and the underlying strife that exists can be suitably dealt with, the Court said.

The Bench called upon the state to file an affidavit stating the stages at which the investigation is going on and as to whether any accused has been apprehended in such manner, while noting that various cases have been registered pursuant to the violence of October 26 and incidence which took place prior thereto. 

The Court noted the Chief Minister of the State has reported in the local press yesterday as well as today that he has directed the officials concerned to compute the damages that have occurred and to immediately see the compensation as deemed appropriate is granted to them. “We direct the state to take urgent action in this regard so that the livelihood of persons who have lost their source of income can be restored at the earliest.”

“We direct the respondents to file further affidavits before this Court on or before November 10, 2021 specifically dealing with preventive measures they had taken or what is their plan of scuttling the design of stoking communal passion or to perpetrate in the violence. List the matter on November 12, 2021,” the order reads.

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