Vinod Dua: Supreme Court directs HP Police to submit investigation details in sealed cover, to hear matter for final disposal next week
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Vinod Dua: Supreme Court directs HP Police to submit investigation details in sealed cover, to hear matter for final disposal next week

The Court indicated that after examining the investigation details, the proceedings may be quashed if Dua's contentions are found to be true.

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today pulled up the Himachal Pradesh Police for failing to file the investigation reports pertaining to the sedition case filed against journalist Vinod Dua.

The Court has now directed the police to place the details on record in a sealed cover (Vinod Dua v. Union of India).

The case will be heard for final disposal next week. The Police is required to submit the relevant investigation details to the Court by Monday, July 13.

The Bench of Justices UU Lalit, Mohan M Shantanagoudar, and Vineet Saran took up the plea filed by veteran journalist Vinod Dua seeking protection from coercive action in relation to an FIR filed against him in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh.

MM Shantanagoudar, UU Lalit, and Vineet Saran
MM Shantanagoudar, UU Lalit, and Vineet Saran

At the start of today's hearing, Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, representing Dua, termed the police interrogation as harassment. He claimed that Dua received the same questions from the police on multiple occasions, and that the police has refused to furnish details of the complaint.

Claiming that Dua was a "responsible journalist" with a standing of around 45 years in the profession, Singh said that he had the right to criticise the government under the guaranteed freedom of speech and expression. This right was being affected on account of police's action against him, Singh submitted.

Singh cited the Supreme Court's recent order in the plea filed by anchor Amish Devgan, who was successful in securing interim protection from the Supreme Court. The Court's order staying the FIRs filed against OpIndia's Nupur J Sharma and three others was also cited by Singh.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, however, sought to argue that the cases and their facts are very different, and as such, stand on different footing. Singh, however, rebutted and said:

"All these cases fall under the ambit of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and deal with freedom of speech and expression."
Senior Counsel Vikas Singh

Singh argued that while Dua faces sedition charges merely for criticising the government of the day, the judgment in Kedarnath Singh case had held that "sedition is when you incite violence or create public disorder."

While Mehta sought for a deferment in the hearing, the Court asked the Himachal Pradesh Police why there was delayed action on its part. The Court said,

"This (program in question) was supposed to have telecast on March 30 and the complaint was filed on April 23... There was a delay of 24 days. On May 11, you (Police) say notice under Section 91 (of CrPC) was obtained from crime branch and then, on June 11, you write a letter to the news media house. What happened from May 11 to June 11? This shows your seriousness about the investigation."

The Court then proceeded to list the matter for final disposal in the next week, stating that the proceedings may be quashed by the Court if the contentions raised by Dua are found to be correct.

In the meantime, the Police is directed to place the investigation papers and other relevant material in a sealed cover before the Court's Registry by Monday, July 13.

Dua has also been given the liberty to not answer the questionnaire sent by the Police in the meantime. The interim protection against arrest shall continue till further orders.

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news