Apex Court Restrains Police From Arresting Vinod Dua but Refuses to Stay the Investigation

A bench of Justices U.U. Lalit, M.M. Shantanagoudar and Vineet Saran of the Apex Court granted relief to journalist Vinod Dua; restraining the HP police from arresting him until July 6. Both Delhi and Himachal Pradesh police continues investigating Dua in a sedition case lodged against him over his YouTube show. However, no relief as to stay on the investigation proceedings has been granted yet. Furthermore, the bench issued notices to the Centre and the state government, seeking their responses within two weeks. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for the Centre and the state government; accepting the notice, he said he would file the reply in such time.

The Battle

Vinod Dua’s YouTube show broadcasted a 15-minute clip on March 30 that allegedly got the nation in an uproar. It accused the Prime Minister of  India using “deaths and terror attacks” to get votes in the recent Delhi Communal Riots. Two complaints, one by BJP spokesperson Naveen Kumar in New Delhi and another by BJP Leader Ajay Shyam in Himachal Pradesh has been lodged against Dua. According to Shyam, Vinod Dua had instigated violence against the government and the Prime Minister by spreading false and malicious news.

He has been charged under sections 124A (sedition), 268 (public nuisance), 501 (printing matter known to be defamatory) and 505 (statements conducive to public mischief). However, Dua’s legal representative, Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, sought a stay of the FIR and demanded its quashing. Furthermore he argued that the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression of the journalist has been taken.

Singh said that if such charges are slapped against individuals, many of them may fall within the ambit of sedition arbitrarily. The Delhi High Court has stayed investigation proceedings until June 23. The Himachal Pradesh police had sent notices to Dua, asking for his presence there for the purposes of investigation. Dua responded negatively to the notice, citing his health, age and the current Covid-19 travel and quarantine protocols. On another note, the court was unable to explain the delay of nearly three months in filing of the complaint.