Updated on June 3, 2021:
The Supreme Court quashed the FIR against Vinod Dua on sedition and other charges, filed by a local BJP leader in June 2020 , stating that every journalist should be protected as per the Kedar Nath Singh judgement, which held the limits of sedition to “acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance of law and order; or incitement to violence.”
End of update.
Previous report dated June 26, 2020:
Following an FIR against journalist, Vinod Dua, by the Delhi Police based on a complaint by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Spokesperson, Navin Kumar, was stayed by the Delhi High Court stating charges as “unwarranted and unjustified” harassment to the petitioner, another FIR was filed by the Shimla Police, this time for Sedition.
The complaint by BJP leader, Ajay Shyam, 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,” about the communal violence in Delhi on his YouTube show. Reviewing Dua’s petition the Supreme Court granted Vinod Dua protection from arrest till July 6. However, the three-judge bench comprising of Justices UU Lalit, MM Shantanagoudar and V Saran refused to stay the investigation, the Himachal Pradesh Police may investigate the petitioner as offered by him to cooperate through video conferencing or online mode and also at his residence after the Police gives a prior notice of 24 hours said the court order.
The Supreme Court issued a notice to the Centre and the Himachal Pradesh State government and expects a complete status report before the next hearing on July 6. Appearing for Dua, Senior Advocate Vikas Singh said that the FIR was a “harassment” for airing views unpalatable to the government. “If what Dua said is sedition, then only two channels can function in the country,” he added.
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the charges filed against Vinod Dua, “Bharatiya Janata Party officials should stop filing frivolous complaints against Vinod Dua and other journalists, which are clear attempts to silence critical reporting,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher, in New York. “Criticism goes hand in hand with democracy, and is not a seditious act. The investigations into Dua’s work should be dropped immediately,” she added.
The Delhi Union of Journalist (DUJ) said, this is a, “misuse of the law to silence a critical voice.”
Senior Journalist and Founding Editor of The Wire, Siddharth Varadarajan called this a “harassment”. “The charge of ‘sedition’, sending cops to his home at 7 am is simply outrageous,” he said.
Earlier, The Editors Guild of India had raised concerns over the growing tendency among Police in various states to take cognisance of frivolous charges against journalists and convert them into FIR’s.
Meanwhile, between March 25 and May 31, as many as 55 journalists, faced arrest and registration of FIRs, summons or show causes notices, physical assaults, alleged destruction of properties and threats for reportage on COVID-19 or exercising freedom of opinion and expression, according to a report by the Rights and Risks Analysis Group.