The Delhi High Court on Wednesday stayed the investigation against journalist Vinod Dua for allegedly misreporting the communal violence in the city in February and spreading fake news through his YouTube show, Bar and Bench reported on Thursday. The Delhi Police had filed a first information report in the case on June 5.

The FIR against Dua was filed on a complaint by Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Naveen Kumar. Earlier on Wednesday, a trial court in Delhi had directed the police not to take any coercive action against Dua.

A single judge bench of Justice Anup J Bhambani issued the stay order after hearing Dua’s plea seeking quashing of the FIR. Dua had contended that the FIR filed against him was mala fide. The journalist alleged that the Delhi Police initiated “malicious prosecution” against him on the basis of a complaint after 75 days, without any evidence that his YouTube video had led to violence.

Dua’s counsel argued that the FIR constituted political vendetta against a reputed journalist and a Padma Shri awardee. The plea claimed that the police action was an attempt to stifle free speech guaranteed as a fundamental right under Article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution. The petitioner argued that even though the trial court had asked the Delhi Police not to take coercive action, merely continuing the investigation would amount to “serious harassment”.

Defending the FIR, the Delhi Police said that investigation in the matter was at a nascent stage and Dua had not even been called yet for questioning.

But the High Court, ordering a stay on the FIR, said: “This court is persuaded to think that the filing of the complaint and registration of the FIR deserve to be considered and deliberated further, before allowing investigation to proceed against the petitioner. Accordingly, further investigation in the matter arising from the subject FIR is stayed, till the next date of hearing.” The judge said the FIR is likely to cause “unwarranted and unjustified” harassment to the petitioner.

Communal violence had erupted between supporters and opponents of the Citizenship Amendment Act in Delhi in February, leading to the deaths of 53 people.