Dua on YouTube alleged PM Modi of using “deaths and terror attacks” to get votes

Today, the Supreme Court quashed sedition and other charges against journalist Vinod Dua by a BJP leader from Himachal Pradesh for making critical comments against Prime Minister Modi and the Union government.

According to LiveLaw, the Supreme Court said, “Every journalist is entitled to the protection under the Kedar Nath Singh case (which defined the ambit of the offence of sedition under Section 124A IPC).”

In the case of Kedar Nath Singh (1962), five judges of the SC had made it clear that “allegedly seditious speech and expression may be punishable only if the speech is an ‘incitement’ to ‘violence’ or ‘public disorder.”

However, SC denied the second prayer made by Vinod Dua, seeking the formation of a committee to verify allegations against journalists before an FIR is lodged and suggested no FIR should be filed against a journalist with over ten years of experience unless the committee approves it. The court noted that this prayer would be an encroachment into the legislative domain, according to LiveLaw.

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

The FIR against Dua was filed based on a complaint by BJP leader Shyam at Kumarsain police station in Shimla on May 6, 2020 and the journalist was asked to join the inquiry. It invoked charges under several provisions of the Indian Penal Code, including sedition, public nuisance, printing defamatory materials and public mischief.

The complaint accused that Dua, in his YouTube show HW News Network, alleged PM Modi of using “deaths and terror attacks” to get votes.

In the video, Dua questioned “why PM Modi didn’t take any action during the Delhi riots. There was continuous violence for three days, crores of the properties were destroyed, and many people were also killed. Dua also asked Delhi Police to issue a fact sheet showing how many Muslims were killed and how many had got arrested.”

He also added that while Delhi was burning, PM Modi was unbothered, and the Home minister had disappeared. He alleged that these incidents were shameful for the democracy and the country.

Last year in June, the Supreme court had granted protection from Dua’s arrest till further orders. Although it had refused to stay the ongoing inquiry against him, Dua was asked to join the investigation through a video conference to answer the summons issued by the police.

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

The petition also said the SC should give a direction hereafter, that FIRs against media persons with at least ten years experience should not be lodged, “unless cleared by a committee to be constituted by every state government”. This committee will be constituted of the high court’s chief justice or a judge designated by her, opposition leader and the home minister.

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

According to LiveLaw, the plea said the SC 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.”

The plea claimed that there is a recent trend against the media, where state governments that do not find a particular broadcast to be in sync with their political ideologies lodge FIRs against media persons, primarily to harass them and intimidate them so that they perish under the state or else face the consequences by the police.

The plea said filing FIR and coercive steps against Dua comprised to “direct and brazen violation” of his fundamental rights.

The case against Dua was lodged in Himachal Pradesh hours after the Delhi high court had stayed further police action on an FIR lodged by the Delhi police. The Delhi police case was also registered based on a complaint by a BJP leader.

The plea claimed there is a planned approach of authorities “to silence the media which is not palatable to them.”

It alleged that the FIR lodged against Dua is “politically motivated” and is “purely to settle scores for critically assesing the functioning of the union government during the present time of Covid-19.”

The said restriction imposed against free speech refers to issues that threaten public order, decency, morality, and the security of the state. In the lawsuit of the petitioner Dua, facts that are publicly verifiable and truth have been treated as grounds for sedition and other serious offences far from the truth.

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