The Supreme Court on Sunday granted journalist Vinod Dua protection from arrest till July 6, in a sedition case filed against him by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ajay Shyam, Bar and Bench reported. The court also issued notices to the Centre and the Himchal Pradesh government, asking them to respond to Dua’s petitions to cancel the cases against him.
On Friday, Dua was summoned by the police in Shimla in connection with the sedition charge. The summons came two days after the Delhi High Court stayed a first information report filed against Dua for allegedly spreading fake news on the communal violence in Delhi in February through his YouTube show.
The FIR filed in Shimla is also related to the show. The complainant alleged that Dua had accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of using “deaths and terror attacks”. He also accused Dua of instigating violence by spreading “fake news”.
In a special hearing, a three-judge bench comprising Justices UU Lalit, MM Shantanagoudar and V Saran refused to stay the investigation against Dua. The bench, however, said that the Himachal Pradesh Police will have to give Dua an advance 24-hour notice before questioning him at his residence.
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The top court directed the Himachal Pradesh government to submit a complete status report in the case before the next hearing on July 6.
A separate FIR was filed against Dua in Delhi last week for allegedly misreporting the large-scale communal violence in the Capital. The FIR was filed on a complaint by BJP spokesperson Naveen Kumar. The BJP leader accused Dua of spreading fake news through the “The Vinod Dua Show” on YouTube. Kumar also alleged that Dua had said the central government had done nothing to stop the violence in Delhi.
After Kumar’s complaint, the police registered a case against Dua under sections 290 (punishment for public nuisance in cases not otherwise provided for), 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) and 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes) of the Indian Penal Code.
The police action against Dua was widely criticised by journalists. The Editors Guild of India had called it a brazen attack on free speech. The Indian Journalists’ Union said that the FIRs against Dua were an attempt to intimidate and stifle the media.