The Supreme Court on Thursday quashed the sedition case initiated by the Himachal Pradesh Police against Vinod Dua in connection with his YouTube show – the Vinod Dua Show on the February 2020 communal riots in Delhi and the Centre's handling of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019 protests.
The division bench comprising Justices UU Lalit and Vineet Saran observed that all journalists are entitled to protection as outlined in the Supreme Court's 1962 Kedar Nath Singh judgment which says that only speech that incites violence or public disorder is seditious. Anything else is exempt.
"Mere strong words used to express disapprobation of the measures of the government with a view to their improvement or alteration by lawful means" is not sedition, the supreme court's 1962 verdict had said.
The top court however rejected Dua's plea which said no FIR to be registered against senior journalists with more than 10 years' experience unless it was cleared by an expert committee.
"We have rejected the committee formation prayer since it will be directly encroaching upon the legislative domain. However, the FIR against Vinod Dua stands quashed," the top court said.
Last year in June 2020, the Supreme Court had issued interim directions protecting Dua from coercive action by the Himachal Pradesh police. It had at that time refused Dua's plea to stay the FIR filed against him by a local Himachal Pradesh BJP leader.
Ajay Shyam, the local BJP leader had said the statements made by Dua in his March 30, 2020 show were capable of inciting communal hatred. After the Shimla FIR, multiple FIRs were registered against Dua in several states. Dua was also charged under the provisions of the Disaster Management Act for allegedly spreading misinformation and false claims about the COVID19 pandemic.
In his defense, Dua submitted that his show was a critical analysis of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's failure in handling the pandemic and the manner in which the March 25, 2020, nationwide lockdown imposed.
"There was nothing in the video which could be remotely termed to be criminal…," Dua had said. The allegations that Dua's show caused the migrant exodus triggered by the nationwide lockdown was an afterthought and not part of the complaint, to begin with.
"The said argument has been made only to somehow justify the FIR," Senior Advocate Vikas Singh had said.