The rights of a petitioner cannot be ignored, said the Tripura High Court, as it quashed the Look-out Circular (LoC) issued by the Tripura Police against Saumen Sarkar, an NRI from Tripura who also runs a news portal from the United States of America.

Speaking with the reporter, advocate Amitabha Roy Barman said that in January last year, Tripura government issued an (LoC) against his client, Sarkar, for publishing a series of news on Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb.    

“Various fake, politically-motivated cases were lodged against Saumen Sarkar, editor of TripuraInfoway.com, his senior citizen parents were harassed multiple times, photographers, journalists, office bearers were threatened, thrashed,” Barman said.

He also said that using police machinery, the government wanted to shut down Tripurainfoway.com news media with false complaints to the domain of the website.

“In the present case, no warrant of arrest issued by any court against the petitioner is pending and the petitioner is being represented by his engaged counsel. The notice under Section 41A of the Cr.P.C. was issued at a time when it was physically impossible for the petitioner to travel to India for contagion (Covid-19 lockdown).

Hence, his inability to appear before the police cannot be termed as deliberate. So far the question of impounding of the passport is concerned, no case has been made out by respondents No.1 and 2 (Tripura government, DGP and SP West Tripura district) in terms of Section 10(3) of the Passport Act. That apart, Passport Act does not authorize the Indian Passport Authority to cancel US Passport,” Justice Subhasish Talaptra said in his judgment.

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The single-bench justice also observed that as claimed by respondents No.1, 2 and 3, the petitioner’s case under Section 10(3) (e) of the Passport Act cannot be sustained in as much as the circumstance as stated in the clause-(e) is that in respect of the commission of the offence since the authority cannot be extended unless the travel document including a passport had been withheld by the criminal court in India or the holder of the passport has committed any offence.

“So far the clause-10(3)(h) is concerned, this will not apply in the case of the petitioner as there is no warrant of arrest or summon for appearance of the petitioner is pending being issued by a court of law. It is apparent that the passport authority has refused to act in accordance with the request made by the respondents No.1, 2 and 3,” Justice Talapatra observed.

Further, Justice Talapatra observed that the court can’t shut its eyes to the petitioner’s rights. The action, which curtails or takes away the personnel liberty, has to be reasonable and proportionate and has to be considered not in the abstract or hypothetical considerations. Having regard to all these aspects as recorded above, the lookout circulars as issued against the petitioner stands quashed.

The court said that on arrival in Agartala, the petitioner inform the investigating agency, and respond to the summons issued by the criminal court or comply with the court order. It is made clear that the observations as made above reflect in no manner on the merit of the investigation, but investigations should end without delay.

Speaking with EastMojo, Saumen Sarkar said that he was booked by the state police for publishing a series of news articles on his web portal and encouraging fearless journalism.

“Both the previous CPI (M)-led Left Front government and the BJP government have tried to defame, harass me, and my elderly parents, and conspired to stop me from visiting my home state,” Sarkar said.

He also said that various fake, politically-motivated cases were lodged against him, his senior citizen parents were harassed multiple times, photographers, journalists, office bearers were threatened and thrashed.   

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