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In a special hearing convened this morning, the Supreme Court issued notice in an urgent plea by journalist Vinod Dua seeking protection against coercive action in multiple FIRs. In a relief for Dua, however, the Court has said that he shall not be arrested till further orders.
The Court said that at this stage the investigation on the FIR cannot be stayed. However, the Apex Court directed the Himachal Pradesh Police may question the journalist at his residence and only after a prior notice of 24 hours.
Notice has been issued to both the Central Government and the State of Himachal Pradesh in the matter by the three-Judge Bench of Justices UU Lalit, MM Shantanagoudar and Vineet Saran
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for the State and the Centre both and sought time to file a reply in the matter. Granting two weeks' time, the Court has fixed the next date of hearing on the plea on July 6. Before this date, the authorities are required to file a detailed status report.
In the meantime, the investigation will continue and Dua has been asked to cooperate with the same. However, till further orders, Dua shall not be arrested, the Court clarified.
Appearing for Dua, Senior Advocate Vikas Singh had pressed for a stay on the investigation, pointing out that none of the offences alleged have been made out prima facie.
With reference to the charge of sedition levelled against Dua, Singh also argued out that "if this kind of content can attract sedition then half the country will be committing sedition."
The Court, however was not inclined to grant a stay on the investigation and proceeded to direct Dua to co-operate in the questioning. Additionally, the Court has also directed for the original complainant to be made party to the proceedings. The Court said,
Dua is accused of having made certain statements in his YouTube program, the Vinod Dua show, which were allegedly of the nature to incite communal hatred and lead to a breach of peace and communal disharmony.
An FIR accusing Dua of sedition has been filed in Simla in relation to his program on his YouTube channel. He was summoned to appear before the Himachal Pradesh Police this weekend over the same, prompting Dua to move the Supreme Court for relief.
As per a post uploaded on Social Media, the Police had turned up on Dua's doorstep to serve him a notice to appear before the Kumarsain Police Station the next day.
In his plea, Dua had termed the FIR bogus and argued that the police was proceeding against him in the most malicious manner.
In this regard, Dua pointed out that his physical presence was demanded after 35 days of the FIR's registration in a remote place at Himach Pradesh on Saturday, "when majority of Delhi is in containment zone and the Himachal Pradesh by its own orders has compulsorily ordered quarantine for 14 days as per its guidelines for any of its state guests."
As far as the video under scrutiny is concerned, Dua notes that he had done a "critical analysis of the failure of the Union of India in conducting the nationwide (COVID-19) lockdown and the manner it was implemented."
"There was nothing in the video which could be remotely termed to be criminal", Dua argues, adding that "During the video, he also mentioned the politicizing of army attack during the last elections."
Earlier, the Delhi High Court had stayed the investigation on an FIR filed against Dua in Delhi in relation to the same program in question.