The Supreme Court on Friday heard arguments of Senior Advocate Vikas Singh appearing on behalf of Journalist Vinod Dua in the plea seeking quashing of FIR filed against on allegations of sedition, promotion of communal enmity etc over his YouTube videos.
Singh submitted before a bench of Justices UU Lalit & Vineet Sareen that the ingredients required for offences under sections 124A , 153A & 505(2) of the IPC did not fall within the ambit of the instant case.
Singh: "There is complete distortion in the FIR from what is actually said in the program conducted by Dua. What I said is not definitely there in the FIR. On both counts, it is neither sedition nor statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill will."
For this purpose, he cited Kedar Nath Singh vs State Of Bihar & Balwant Singh And Anr vs State Of Punjab.
Next, Singh argued that that accused cannot be held guilty of either the offence under Section 153A or under Section 505(2) of IPC if he has not done anything as against any religious, racial or linguistic or regional group or community.
On the other prayer seeking directions 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, Singh drew corollaries between the USA's Bill of Rights & Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.
Singh: "USA mention citizens & press..19(1)(a) does NOT mention press. The idea is that free speech should be available to the entire citizenry as well as the press. Absence of freedom of press threatens democracy. If freedom of speech is not specifically guaranteed to the press - things are also taking a degenerative turn in our country."
Singh concluded his arguments for the day and the bench adjourned the case to September 2nd.
On July 7, top court directed the Himachal Pradesh police to file status report in a sealed cover with requisite details within a week in the ongoing investigation against Journalist Vinod Dua on charges of sedition.
The bench had also orally observed on the said date that once the details of investigation are placed before court and if the court is satisfied with the journalist's contentions, the Court will quash the FIR "straight away".
"If we are satisfied that contention raised by petitioner is correct, we will quash the FIR straight away", observed the Court, posting the matter to July 15. The interim protection from arrest, granted on June 14, has been extended till the next date of hearing.
Dua is facing FIRs from multiple states, including the most recent ones in Maharashtra and West Bengal.
An FIR was registered against Dua in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh whereby he was summoned by the Shimla Police in connection with a sedition charge levelled against him by local Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ajay Shyam.
Senior Advocate Vikas Singh argued on behalf of Dua and stated that his client was being harassed for exercising his constitutional right of Freedom of Speech.
On June 14, 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 bench had then 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.
The summons by Shimla police 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.