Supreme Court refuses to stay investigation against Vinod Dua

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Supreme Court refuses to stay investigation against Vinod Dua

-Vijpreet Pal

In a special Sunday sitting, the Supreme Court refused to stay the direction issued by Shimla police to journalist Vinod Dua under Section 160 of Code of Criminal Procedure asking him to appear before them in relation to investigation in an FIR alleging sedition.

Vinod Dua is accused of having made certain statements in his YouTube program, the Vinod Dua show, which was allegedly of the nature to incite communal hatred and lead to a breach of peace and communal disharmony. On June 11, the Delhi High Court temporarily stayed the investigation against Vinod Dua in an FIR which alleged that he was spreading communal disharmony on his YouTube show. While holding that there’s no prima facie case against Dua to warrant the registration of FIR, the Single Bench of Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani noted that there was no allegation that any adverse consequences, in terms of enmity, hatred or ill-will, much less any violence or breach of peace, occurred as a consequence of the webcast.

The FIR, which was filed by Mr. Naveen Kumar, complained about a section of Vinod Dua’s YouTube show which had talked about the riots that had happened in the northeast district of Delhi. The FIR further recorded that Vinod Dua, through his webcast, is spreading rumors and misinformation about the sensitive issue of the Delhi riots; and that his comments/remarks in the webcast contain communal overtones, which during the current COVID crisis, is causing public disaffection, which shall cause hatred and ill-will between different communities.

An FIR accusing Dua of sedition has been filed in Simla in relation to his program on his YouTube channel. As per a post uploaded on Social Media, the Police had turned up on Dua’s doorstep to serve him a notice to appear before the Kumarsain Police Station the next day. Dua has been charged with grave offenses under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including sedition (section 124A), public nuisance (section 268), printing defamatory matter (section 501) and intent to cause public mischief based (section 505) on a complaint filed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ajay Shyam.

Dua had approached the Supreme Court on Saturday submitting that he was shocked to see the police of Himachal Pradesh at his doorstep. In his plea, Dua had termed the FIR bogus and argued that the police were proceeding against him in the most malicious manner.

“What is rather shocking that the Police has sought the Petitioner to be present for investigation in Himachal Pradesh one and half-day after the notice issued even though they are aware that the State of Himachal has specifically passed an order dated 01.06.2020 for institutional quarantine for any person which visits from another state. The Petitioner being from the Delhi which is not only a red zone but slowly turning into a containment zone, the Petitioner would be forced to quarantine for 14 days. Further, as per Central Government guidelines also people above the age of 65 are at risk”, Dua had submitted.

As far as the video under scrutiny is concerned, Dua notes that he had done a “critical analysis of the failure of the Union of India in conducting the nationwide (COVID-19) lockdown and the manner it was implemented.”

There was nothing in the video which could be remotely termed to be criminal, Dua argues. “The petitioner also made a reference (in the video) to the politicization of the army’s attack in response to the Pulwama Attack and usage of the same in the last elections. There was nothing in the video which could be remotely termed to be criminal,” his lawyer Senior Advocate Vikas Singh had argued and pressed for a stay on the investigation, pointing out that none of the offenses alleged have been made out prima facie.

With reference to the charge of sedition leveled against Dua, Singh also argued out that if this kind of content can attract sedition then half the country will be committing sedition.” “If what Dua said is sedition, then only two channels can function in the country,” he submitted.

In a special hearing convened this morning, the Supreme Court issued a notice in an urgent plea by journalist Vinod Dua seeking protection against coercive action in multiple FIRs.

The Court said that at this stage the investigation on the FIR cannot stay. However, the Apex Court directed the Himachal Pradesh Police may question the journalist at his residence and The bench said that the Investigating Authorities (HP Police) shall give 24-hour prior notice to Dua before they’d want to interrogate him in accordance with the law.  Notice has been issued to both the Central Government and the State of Himachal Pradesh in the matter by the three-Judge Bench of Justices UU Lalit, MM Shantanagoudar, and Vineet Saran.

Dua has been granted protection from arrest till July 6—the next date of hearing in the case. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for the State and the Centre both and sought time to file a reply in the matter. Granting two weeks’ time, the Court has fixed the next date of hearing on the plea on July 6. Before this date, the authorities are required to file a detailed status report. In the meantime, the investigation will continue and Dua has been asked to cooperate with the same.

 

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