The Court has scheduled the case for final disposal on July 15 while extending the senior journalist protection from arrest during the meantime.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Himachal Pradesh police to hand over the complete records of its investigation into the sedition case registered against senior journalist and Padma Shri awardee Vinod Dua, saying it will quash the FIR against him if the documents justify his contention that the case is merely a ruse to harass him.
On the other hand, the court said it will quash Mr. Dua’s writ petition, alleging intimidation by the State, if it is satisfied with the probe records.
A three-judge Bench led by Justice U.U. Lalit directed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to hand over the probe records in a sealed cover. The court scheduled the case for final disposal on July 15. It extended protection from arrest for Mr. Dua in the meantime.
The case concerns an FIR filed against the journalist for his YouTube show telecast on March 30. The FIR, registered in Kumarsain outside Shimla, accused Mr. Dua of blaming the government about its COVID-19 preparedness and alleging that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had “garnered votes through acts of terrorism”.
During the virtual court hearing, Justice Lalit wondered aloud whether the Himachal police were actually earnest about the case.
“The telecast was on March 30. The complaint was filed 24 days later. Again, the FIR was registered days later on May 7. Investigating Officer visited the Cyber Crime division only on May 11. A communication was sent to HW Network [which telecast Mr. Dua’s show] only on June 11… Why this delay from May 11 to June 11? You [police] have to satisfy this court that you are in right earnest about this case,” Justice Lalit addressed Mr. Mehta.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh and advocate Varun Singh said Mr. Dua is facing harassment.
Mr. Vikas Singh read out from a supplementary questionnaire in which one of the queries was why Mr. Dua had referred to an article in The Indian Express by former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram when he himself was a journalist with 45 years of experience.
Justice Lalit reacted that such questions were “not relevant” and Mr. Dua need not answer them.
“I have the full right to criticise the government. If I am using somebody’s analysis, how does it become sedition… If Indian Penal Code is not sufficient for them, they are even accusing me of offences under the Disaster Management Act,” Mr. Vikas Singh submitted.
Mr. Mehta said the “investigation is going on and prima facie offence is made out”. Mr. Singh urged the court to quash the case.
Justice Lalit categorically said the case would be decided on July 15.
The complaint, believed to be filed by a local BJP leader, accused Mr. Dua of spreading fake news. Besides sedition, the other charges raised against the senior journalist include causing public nuisance, printing of defamatory matter and making statements conducive to public mischief.
Mr. Dua approached the Supreme Court after the Himachal police had appeared at his residence on June 12 and ordered him to be present at the remote Kumarsain police station — at least a 20-hour drive from Delhi — the very next day (June 13) at 10 a.m..
Incidentally, the Himachal police made their presence known to Mr. Dua shortly after the Delhi High Court had stayed an FIR registered by the Delhi police on the same telecast.
“There is a recent trend against the media where State governments who do not find a particular telecast to be in sync with their political ideologies register FIRs against persons of the media primarily to harass them and to intimidate them so that they succumb to the line of the State or else face the music at the hands of the police,” Mr. Dua had submitted in the Supreme Court.
Source: The Hindu