A citizen has a right to criticize or comment upon the measures undertaken by the Government and its functionaries, so long as he does not incite people to violence against the Government or with the intention of creating public disorder, the Supreme Court said while quashing sedition case registered against journalist Vinod Dua.
The bench of Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Vineet Saran observed that it is only when the words or expressions have pernicious tendency or intention of creating public disorder or disturbance of law and order that Sections 124A is attracted.
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, last year. The court noted that the statements made by Dua can at best be termed as expression of disapprobation of actions of the Government and its functionaries so that prevailing situation could be addressed quickly and efficiently.
"They were certainly not made with the intent to incite people or showed tendency to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence. The petitioner was within the permissible limits laid down in the decision of this Court in Kedar Nath Singh . It may be that certain factual details in the 3rd statement regarding the date when the ban came into effect were not completely correct. However, considering the drift of the entire talk show and all the statements put together it cannot be said that the petitioner crossed the limits set out in the decision of this Court in Kedar Nath Singh", the bench said while quashing the FIR against the journalist. The court added any prosecution would be violative of the rights of the petitioner guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
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 court observed.
The bench however rejected the prayer that no FIR be registered against a person belonging to media with at least 10 years of standing unless cleared by the Committee as suggested. This would amount to encroachment upon the field reserved for the legislature, the bench said.
Case: Vinod Dua vs. Union of India [WP(Crl) .154 of 2020]Coram: Justices Uday Umesh Lalit and Vineet SaranCitation: LL 2021 SC 266