The Supreme Court on Thursday quashed the first information report with sedition and other charges against journalist Vinod Dua for criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his administration, reported Live Law.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader in Himachal Pradesh Ajay Shyam had filed a complaint against Dua, accusing him of spreading rumours and misinformation about the communal violence in Delhi in February 2020 through his YouTube show.
“We have quashed the proceedings and FIR,” a bench of Justices UU Lalit and Vineet Saran said, reported Bar and Bench. “Every journalist will be entitled to the protection under Kedar Nath Singh [sedition] judgement.”
However, the court rejected Dua’s request to direct that no FIR should be registered against any mediaperson with 10 years of experience unless it is cleared by an expert committee.
“We have rejected the committee formation prayer since it will be directly encroaching upon the legislative domain,” the court said. “However, the FIR against Vinod Dua stands quashed.”
In August, Dua had told the Supreme Court that criticism of the government was not in itself seditious unless it instigated violence. “Moreover, if I criticise the prime minister, that does not come under criticism of the government,” he had then said.
Dua had approached the Supreme Court after the Himachal Pradesh Police went to his residence on June 12 last year and ordered him to be present at the remote Kumarsain Police Station – at least a 20-hour drive from Delhi – the very next day at 10 am.
The Supreme Court had urgently convened a virtual hearing on June 14, 2020 and granted him protection from arrest till July 6. The next day, the court extended his protection till July 15.
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.