SC cancels sedition case against journalist Vinod Dua
The Supreme Court on Thursday overturned a registered sedition case against senior journalist and Padma Award winner Shri Vinod Dua for his critical remarks on the Prime Minister and the Union government in a TV show on YouTube, while highlighting his verdict 59-year-old man that “strong words” of disapproval of the current regime does not amount to sedition.
A Chamber headed by Judge UU Lalit confirmed the right of any journalist to criticize, even brutally, government measures aimed at improving or modifying them by legal means. A journalist’s freedom of expression must be protected against charges of sedition.
The Supreme Court judgment by Justice Lalit confirmed the spirit and intent of his 1962 Kedar Nath Singh judgment, which said that “to comment in strong terms on the measures or actions of the government, or its agencies, in order to to improve the condition of the people or to obtain the annulment or modification of these acts or measures by lawful means, that is to say without arousing feelings of enmity and disloyalty which involve incitement to public disorder or the use of violence is not sedition ”.
“Every journalist has the right to protection under the Kedar Nath Singh judgment,” Justice Lalit said.
The 1962 judgment declared that section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (sedition) was intended only to punish the subversion of a legally established government by violent means.
The court acknowledged the submission made by Mr. Dua, who is currently recovering from COVID, that “there is a recent trend against the media where state governments that do not find a particular show in tune with their political ideologies are recording. FIR against media people mainly to harass and intimidate them into succumbing to the state line or confronting the music at the hands of the police ”.
The judgment came as a blow to the government, which had even raised the question of whether journalism itself could legally qualify as a profession. The government had said that a “professional” was someone who had a customer relationship.
Thursday’s verdict could mean a court retreat from the indiscriminate number of sedition cases filed against critical journalists, citizens, lawyers and activists. Recently, another Supreme Court bench, in a separate case over sedition charges brought against two Telugu channels by the Andhra government, said it was time to define the limits of the sedition law.
The complaint against Mr. Dua was filed by a BJP leader. The senior reporter was accused of spreading false news. In addition to sedition, other charges include public nuisance, printing defamatory language and making statements that may harm the public.
Senior lawyer Vikas Singh for Mr. Dua had made the central point that “fair criticism is not sedition”. The Supreme Court had protected Mr. Dua from arrest in June 2020.
Mr Dua had applied to the Supreme Court after Himachal police appeared at his home on June 12 last year and ordered him to be present at the remote Kumarsain police station – at au minus 20 hours drive from Delhi – next day (Jun 13) at 10am
Incidentally, the Himachal Police made their presence known to Mr. Dua shortly after the Delhi High Court suspended an FIR recorded by the Delhi Police on the same TV show.