Ahmedabad: The detention of journalist Dhaval Patel, editor of Gujarati news portal Face of Nation, under the charge of sedition has caused an uproar in Gujarat, especially among the media and on social media, but the police is proceeding with its investigation.
The police is currently waiting for his Covid-19 test results, which are mandatory according to the protocol laid down by the Gujarat High Court. After being detained from his residence, Patel was taken to the SVP Hospital run by the Amdavad Municipal Corporation.
“We are waiting for Dhaval’s Covid-19 test report and would later arrest him. Right now, he is under detention,” Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) B.V. Gohil told ThePrint, adding that the police will proceed according to proper procedure.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Deepan Bhadran told ThePrint that an FIR has been lodged, for which the complainant is the police itself.
“We will conduct detailed investigations before deciding on filing a charge sheet,” Bhadran said.
The case against Patel
Face of Nation had reported on widespread speculation that Chief Minister Vijay Rupani may be dropped for his alleged inept handling of the Covid-19 crisis, and that the BJP high command had summoned Union minister Mansukh Mandaviya as a possible replacement. Several other publications had also reported this.
However, ACP Gohil stated that preliminary investigations revealed that the report was written without evidence, and with an “intention to create instability during the present health crisis”.
Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code and provisions of the Disaster Management Act have been invoked against Patel, whose publication was a weekly newspaper before the lockdown, but now continues as a news portal.
ThePrint reached Gujarat’s Minister of State for Home, Pradipsinh Jadeja, and DGP Shivanand Jha via calls and messages but there was no response until the time of publishing this report. Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Sangeeta Singh was in a meeting and said she would respond later.
Condemnation of the move
Several journalists and politicians have condemned the detention of Patel, and in particular, the slapping of sedition charges against him.
Speaking to ThePrint, senior Gujarat journalist R.K. Misra said: “(This is) the real face of the BJP. The party which claims to have fought against censorship while in the opposition during the Emergency now files cases of sedition on frivolous charges against the media when in power.”
The Congress party’s spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil taunted CM Rupani in a tweet, saying his government should lodge a complaint against BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy, who had tweeted on 8 May that “Gujarat can be stabilised for coronavirus casualty numbers only if Anandiben Patel returns as CM”.
#Gujarat is shocked at cowardly action of CM @vijayrupanibjp under whose direction #Gujaratpolice has arrested Editor of a local website #DhavalPatel under a non bailable clause. Rupani ji, if criticising your leadership is a crime, why not register a case against @Swamy39 also? pic.twitter.com/GwNAHWrzaL
— Shaktisinh Gohil (@shaktisinhgohil) May 11, 2020
The police action against Patel has also outraged civil society members. Hemant Shah and Mahesh Pandya of Gujarat Social Watch, a forum of human rights activists from different fields, said: “The arrest of the journalist is in violation of India’s Constitution and the BJP’s constitution. Overall peace is not going to be affected by this story.”
The activists demanded that Patel be released “immediately and unconditionally”.