The Supreme Court quashed the sedition case filed against Vinod Dua by a BJP leader from Himachal Pradesh for making critical remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Central Government.
By: Kriti Dubey, Bharati Vidyapeeth New Law College
There have been many incidents where misguided and misinformed people are termed as anti-nationals. People express sentiments in a way of a slogan, a poem, a cheer, a statement, or an innocuous post on social media platforms but to turn it into something as serious as an offense of sedition is just erroneous. Words alone are not sufficient for a charge; there has to be an incitement to violence which makes the most important ingredient of the offense of sedition come into the picture. It is mortifying that the world’s largest democracy is so feeble that it has to subdue the voice of its citizens and also to go to the extent of dictating on how one should think.
In the recent case of journalist Vinod Dua, who on his famous YouTube show “The Vinod Dua show,” made statements about Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling government, statements which could have incited communal hatred and led to a breach of peace and communal harmony. Dua was accused by Vijay Shyam, BJP leader of Himachal Pradesh and he also filed the first information report against him.
He was charged with grave offenses under IPC including section 124A (Sedition), section 268 (public nuisance), section 501 (printing defamatory matter), and section 505 (intended to cause public mischief). Dua was also charged under the Disaster Management Act including spreading misinformation and false claims.
Vinod Dua, in his petition, submitted before the Supreme Court that the video in question analyzed the failure of the government in the implementation of the lockdown. The petitioner also referred to the army’s response to the Pulwama attack, using which the government was able to win the last elections.
In the defense of Vinod Dua, his lawyer Vikas Singh contested the charges and invoked the provision of the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the constitution of India.
He raised the question that there is no visible incitement of the violence to be seen in this case.
The government has always allowed for the participation of the public without which it is impossible to prosper if one will not be allowed to share views. He further added that there is a trend that whenever the state government does not find something in sync with their political ideology, they register FIRs against the persons of the media with the primary object to harass and intimidate them so that they succumb to the line of the state or else face the music by the hands of the police.
Dua, in his plea, sought exemplary damages for harassment and the direction from the apex court that no FIR’s be filed against media persons with at least 10 years standing unless cleared by the special panel constituting the chief Justice of the state High Court.
A bench of justice U U Lalit and Vineet Saran has reserved the judgment after hearing arguments for Dua, Himachal Pradesh, and the complainant of the case. The bench opined that “every journalist is entitled to protection under the Kedarnath Singh judgment.” In the Kedarnath Singh case, the Supreme Court had read down section 124A IPC and held that the application of the provision should be limited to acts that involve intention or tendency to create disorder or disturbance of law and order or incitement to violence.