The Supreme Court is hearing a plea by Vinod Dua to quash a sedition case registered against him in Himachal Pradesh
The Supreme Court is hearing a plea by Vinod Dua to quash a sedition case registered against him in Himachal Pradesh
Litigation News

SC hears plea by Journalist Vinod Dua to quash Sedition FIR [LIVE UPDATES]

The case is being heard by a Bench of Justices UU Lalit and Vineet Saran.

Bar & Bench

Supreme Court hears plea filed by veteran journalist Vinod Dua seeking quashing of the Sedition case registered against him in Himachal Pradesh.

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.

Live updates of today's hearing feature on this page.

On June 14, the Court had granted Dua protection from arrest but had refused to stay the FIR registered against Dua in Simla.

In July, the Court sought details from Himachal Pradesh Police pertaining to investigation against Dua in a sealed cover.

The Court had then decided to hear the case for final disposal and had also observed that it would quash the FIR, if Vinod Dua’s apprehensions were found to be true.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta is before a special Bench in relation to AGR case so a request is made to defer the hearing.

Justice Lalit proposes Senior Counsel Vikas Singh may make his arguments for now and SG Mehta may argue later.

Justice Lalit: We will not conclude without hearing SG Mehta

Justice Lalit: This matter has been getting delayed for long also so let us begin the case, we will not conclude the case without hearing SG Mehta.

SG Mehta makes a brief appearance before the Bench, requests for his absence to be pardoned.

Senior Counsel Vikas Singh, for Vinod Dua, begins making his submissions before the Bench. Singh is taking the Court through the contents of the FIR registered against him in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh.

The FIR is in relation to a broadcast by Dua on his YouTube show, the Vinod Dua show, dated March 31 and pertains to certain statements made by Dua.

The FIR says that Dua's statements were of the nature intended to spread fear and panic and defeat the purpose of the lockdown, Singh tells the Court. Dua is also alleged to have made false statements relating to PM Modi according to the FIR.

Singh says that the sections of the IPC invoked against Vinod Dua are not cognizable except Section 124A of IPC (Sedition). Singh is now reading the transcript of the broadcast show in question as admitted by the HP Police.

Singh: I'm only trying to show that there is complete distortion from what is said in the show than what is in the FIR.. on both counts, actually said and alleged sedition, none of it is either under sedition or under Section 505 (IPC)

Singh highlights the delay in filing of the FIR

Singh: The show was on March 31, FIR was on May 6. There was some delay from the complainant's side then one week delay by Police because they said they were doing preliminary inquiry

Singh is now taking the Court through the reply filed by the Himachal Pradesh Police.

Singh now reads the provisions of the Disaster Management Act which deals with the question of cognizance of offences under the Act. The Act provides that no Court shall take cognizance of the offence without a complaint by certain specific persons

Singh: I do not understand why the FIR mentions the DM Act because there is nothing else that require invoking of the DM Act.

Singh reads Section 505 of IPC to show that the offence alleged against Dua is not cognizable.

Singh: I just have to show that Sections 124A and 505(2) of IPC are not made out and therefore FIR could not have been registered.

Vikas Singh cites the Kedarnath Singh case of 1962

Singh: In this case, the accused was convicted and when he came to the Supreme Court, he argued on the vires of the provision but did not argue that the case against him is not made out. So the Supreme Court laid down the law but confirmed his conviction.

Singh reads out the relevant portion of the judgement where it is observed that criticism on political matters is itself not seditious.

Singh refers to the portion of the judgment which states that the government established by law has to be distinguished from the persons engaged in carrying on the administration.

Vikas Singh cites the judgment in Balwant Singh case concerning Sedition.

Singh: This judgement is from the time when the Khalistan movement was at its peak.

Singh reads some excerpts: "We find it difficult to hold that upon the raising of such casual slogans, a couple of times without any other act whatsoever the charge of sedition can be founded."

Singh says that Kedarnath Singh was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2016. Singh refers to the case 2016 15 SCC 269.

Supreme Court refers back to the Balwant Singh case.

Justice Lalit asks: Would it be a case for evidence (to assess if sloganeering led to violence or could lead to violence) or for quashing of FIR at initial stages?

Singh: Inciting leading to violence is a complete offence. In this case also, complaint was filed belatedly... His (Dua) show has a shelf life. Complainant said that he found the show while surfing the net and found that it could be inciteful.

Justice Lalit: You have another prayer?

Singh: That pertains to some guidelines. Our democracy in true sense is in threat if our press is not allowed to function freely.

Singh now citing judgement on the aspect of Sections 505(2) of the IPC and 153A of the IPC.

Singh cites the case 1995 1 SCR 411.

Singh reads out relevant portion from the Bilal Ahmad case [1997 (7) SCC 431] pertaining to necessity of involvement of at least two groups for inviting the offences under 153A and 505(2).

Singh now cites the Supreme Court's judgement in the case Manzar Sayeed Khan vs Maharashtra [ 2007 (5) SCC 1] on the aspect of Section 153A and 505(2) and when they are cognizable

To read the judgment, click here.

Singh: This is affecting my fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression is being affected and we are praying for the Court to law down the law on this. In our A.19(1)(a), Press is not mentioned, it only says "citizens"

Singh: The Bill of Rights and the First amendment in the US mentions the Press and that is the difference between that and our Article19(1)(a). The constituent assembly debates had contemplated that citizenry would include the Press.

Justice Lalit says that first point (on whether the offence is made out and FIR is justified) is more crucial on the instant case, suggesting against the possibility of laying down guidelines

Justice Lalit: There are number of cases where guidelines were laid down when found fit... such as the Madhuri Patil guidelines, Vishaka guidelines. But the directions cannot be in the teeth of the existing statute.

Justice Lalit gives an example of the SC/ST judgement of 2018 which was rendered by a Bench of Justice AK Goel and Justice UU Lalit where certain directions were laid down, but were later set aside by a three-judge Bench.

Justice Lalit: When we lay down guidelines, the guidelines are also supposes to take further the legislative intent and cannot be in the teeth of the statute. We cannot issue directions where statute doesn't permit that

Singh argues that the guidelines sought are in line with the guidelines laid down in the Jacob Mathews case pertaining to registration of FIRs against doctors.

The Court is now being taken through decisions that highlight the importance of freedom of the press

Bench asks Singh for an estimate of the time he will require to finish his arguments.

Singh gives an estimate of about 2 hours.

Court asks Singh to conclude is an hour or so and focus on the points central to the case and take the route taken by the Supreme Court.

Justice Lalit: The idea is not to curtail the submissions but to expedite the hearing.

Hearing concludes for today.

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