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'Every Journalist Entitled To Protection Of Kedar Nath Judgment' :Supreme Court Quashes Sedition Case Against Journalist Vinod Dua

Radhika Roy
3 Jun 2021 5:03 AM GMT
Every Journalist Entitled To Protection Of Kedar Nath Judgment :Supreme Court Quashes Sedition Case Against Journalist Vinod Dua
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The Supreme Court on Thursday quashed the FIR lodged against senior journalist Vinod Dua for sedition and other offences by a local BJP leader in Himachal Pradesh over his YouTube show with critical remarks against Prime Minister and Union Government.A bench of Justices U U Lalit and Vineet Saran had reserved the judgment on October 6, 2020, after hearing arguments for Dua, Himachal...

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The Supreme Court on Thursday quashed the FIR lodged against senior journalist Vinod Dua for sedition and other offences by a local BJP leader in Himachal Pradesh over his YouTube show with critical remarks against Prime Minister and Union Government.

A bench of Justices U U Lalit and Vineet Saran had reserved the judgment on October 6, 2020, after hearing arguments for Dua, Himachal Pradesh government and the complainant in the case.

"Every journalist is entitled to the protection under the Kedar Nath Singh judgment(which defined the ambit of offence of sedition under Section 124A IPC)", the bench observed.

In the case Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar(1962), the Supreme Court had read down Section 124A IPC and held that the application of the provision should be limited to "acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance of law and order; or incitement to violence".

"Every Journalist will be entitled to protection in terms of Kedar Nath Singh , as every prosecution under Sections 124A and 505 of the IPC must be in strict conformity with the scope and ambit of said Sections as explained in, and completely in tune with the law laid down in Kedar Nath Singh"

The bench however refused the second prayer made by Vinod Dua seeking the formation of a committee to verify allegations against journalists before lodging FIR and that no FIR should be registered against a journalist with experience over 10 years unless cleared by the committee. The Court said that this prayer would be an encroachment into the legislative domain.

The FIR against Dua under provisions of Indian Penal Code for offences of sedition, public nuisance, printing defamatory materials and public mischief was lodged by BJP leader Shyam at Kumarsain police station in Shimla district on May 6 and the journalist was asked to join the probe.

Shyam has alleged that Dua, in his YouTube show, accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of using "deaths and terror attacks" to get votes.

Earlier, in an extraordinary hearing conducted on a Sunday on June 14 last year, the top court had granted protection from arrest to Dua till further orders. However, it had refused to stay the ongoing probe against him.

It had asked Dua will have to join the investigation through video-conferencing or online mode as offered by him in his response to the summons issued by the police seeking his personal appearance.

Besides seeking quashing of the FIR, Dua, in the plea, has sought "exemplary damages" for "harassment".

He has also sought direction from the apex court that "henceforth FIRs against persons belonging to the media with at least 10 years standing be not registered unless cleared by a committee to be constituted by every state government, the composition of which should comprise of the Chief Justice of the High Court or a Judge designated by him, the leader of the Opposition and the Home Minister of the State."

Dua has said freedom of the press is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.

The plea said the top court has been "emphasizing for distancing the police from the ruling party in the state" but "none of the major political parties which are in power in various states are ready to give up their control over the police".

"There is a recent trend against the media where state governments which do not find a particular telecast to be in sync with their political ideologies register FIRs against persons of the media primarily to harass them and to intimidate them so that they succumb to the line of the state or else face the music at the hands of the police," the plea claimed.

Lodging of FIR and coercive steps against Dua amounted to "direct and brazen violation" of his fundamental rights, the plea said.

The plea claimed there is a concerted approach of authorities "to silence the media which is not palatable to them".

It alleged that the FIR registered against Dua is "politically motivated" and is "purely to settle scores for critically evaluating the functioning of the central government at the present time of COVID".

"The restriction imposed against free speech refers to issues which are a threat to public order, decency, morality, and the security of the state. In the case of the petitioner (Dua) facts which are publicly verifiable and are true have been treated as a ground for sedition and other serious offences which are far from the truth," it said.

The plea said Dua is a senior citizen with co-morbidities, including hypertension and diabetes.

Case: Vinod Dua vs. Union of India [WP(Crl) .154 of 2020]
Coram: Justices Uday Umesh Lalit and Vineet Saran
Citation: LL 2021 SC 266

Click here to Read/Download Judgment



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