In a special Sunday sitting, the Supreme Court has granted interim Protection from arrest to Senior Journalist Vinod Dua in connection with an FIR registered by Himachal Police alleging Sedition
A bench comprising Justices U U Lalit, Mohan M Shantanagoudar and Vineet Saran issued notice to the Centre, Himachal Pradesh government and police.
The Following Directions were passed by the Bench;
a) Pending further orders, the petitioner shall not be arrested in connection with the present crime;
(b) However, the petitioner in terms of the offer made by him in his communication dated 12.06.2020, shall extend full cooperation through Video Conferencing or Online mode; and
(c) The Himachal Pradesh Police shall be entitled to carry on the investigation including interrogation of the petitioner at his residence after giving him prior notice of 24 hours and complying with the Social Distancing norms prescribed during Covid-19 Pandemic.
"The affidavit in reply filed on behalf of the State shall indicate the steps taken during investigation and a complete Status Report shall be filed before the next date of hearing. The concerned Investigating Officer shall remain personally present in case the open Court hearing is resumed by this Court or shall be available in case the proceedings are taken up through Video Conferencing mode"
The matter will be next taken on July 6.
Journalist Vinod Dua was summoned by the Shimla Police in connection with a sedition charge levelled against him by local Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ajay Shyam.
The bench refused to stay the investigation, despite fervent pleas by Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, who appeared for Dua.
Singh said that the FIR was a "harassment" for airing views unpalatable to the government.
"If what Dua said is sedition, then only two channels can function in the country", he submitted.
When Singh said that the BJP leader who has filed the complaint is a "puppet in the hands" of the ruling party, the bench chided him saying "don't use such adjectives. They are not required".
Senior Advocate Singh : "Whatever the government does not find palpable, harassement continues. How many FIRs will I be harassed with?"@VinodDua7 #vinoddua— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) June 14, 2020
Senior Advocate Singh : "Whatever the government does not find palpable, harassement continues. How many FIRs will I be harassed with?"@VinodDua7 #vinoddua
The summons came two days after the Delhi High Court stayed an FIR filed against Dua for allegedly spreading fake news through his YouTube show on communal violence in Delhi in February. The FIR filed in Shimla is also related to the show.
According to the Complainant Ajay Shyam, Dua's accusations against Prime Minister Narendra Modi of using death and terror attacks for votebank politics led to instigation against toppling of the Government. Shyam claimed that Dua had instigated violence against the government and the prime minister by spreading "fake news".
On June 11, The Delhi High Court temporarily stayed the investigation against Vinod Dua in an FIR which alleged that he was spreading communal disharmony on his youtube show.
While holding that there's no prima facie case against Mr Dua to warrant the registration of FIR, the Single Bench of Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani noted that there was no allegation that any adverse consequences, in terms of enmity, hatred or ill-will, much less any violence or breach of peace, occurred as a consequence of the webcast.
The FIR, which was filed by Mr Naveen Kumar, complained about a section of Vinod Dua's YouTube show which had talked about the riots that had happened in northeast district of Delhi. The FIR further recorded that Mr Vinod Dua, through his webcast, is spreading rumours and misinformation about the sensitive issue of the Delhi riots; and that his comments/remarks in the webcast contain communal overtones, which during the current COVID crisis, is causing public disaffection, which shall cause hatred and ill-will between different communities.
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