New Delhi: The Supreme Court Sunday refused to stay the FIRs filed in different cities accusing journalist Vinod Dua of sedition and other charges, but granted him protection from being arrested until the next date of hearing — 6 July.
The FIRs included the most recent one registered in Shimla.
In a special Sunday sitting, a three-judge bench comprising Justices U.U. Lalit, M.M. Shantanagoudar and Vineet Saran demanded a response from the Himachal Pradesh government and the central government on Dua’s petition seeking quashing of the FIRs against him.
The court said investigation can continue in the mean time and gave the Centre and the Himachal government two weeks to file their replies.
It also asked the Himachal Police to file a complete status report before the next date of hearing and said Dua should be interrogated at his residence after he is given a 24-hour notice. Dua was asked to cooperate with the police on the investigation.
Journalist charged with sedition
Dua has been summoned by the Shimla police, which registered a sedition case against him following a complaint by a local BJP leader, Ajay Shyam, over his YouTube show. In the show, Dua spoke about the Northeast Delhi riots that took place in February.
Shyam has alleged that Dua accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of using “deaths and terror attacks” to get votes. He asserted that Dua instigated violence against the government and the prime minister by spreading false and malicious news.
Dua has been charged under sections 124A (sedition), 268 (public nuisance), 501 (printing matter known to be defamatory) and 505 (statements conducive to public mischief) on the basis of a Shyam’s complaint last month.
The summons were issued two days after the Delhi High Court stayed the investigation in a similar case filed by BJP spokesperson Naveen Kumar.
Justice Anup J. Bhambhani Wednesday noted that there was an unexplained delay of nearly three months in filing the complaint and lodging of the FIR.
The court observed that it was of a prima facie view that further proceedings or probe are likely to cause unjustified harassment to Dua and stayed the investigation until 23 July.
Complainant “puppet in the hands” of the ruling party
Dua’s petition in the Supreme Court has demanded formulation of guidelines for prior permission from a board set up for the purpose, before filing FIRs against journalists.
Arguing for Dua Sunday, senior counsel Vikas Singh submitted that what the journalist said during the show did not amount to sedition. He referred to the transcript of the show and said “if this kind of content can attract sedition then half of the country will be committing sedition”.
Singh also pushed for the proceedings to be stayed, submitting that not staying the FIR will “send a wrong signal”, and that Dua’s fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression will be affected.
He said that “whenever there is something that the government does not find palatable”, there is “harassment” through such FIRs.
He also asserted that the complainant in the case is a “puppet in the hands” of the ruling party, but was asked by the court to not “use such adjectives”.