03 Jun 2121

Every journalist is entitled to protection against sedition - Supreme Court of India

Case : Vinod Dua v. Union of India & Ors. Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 154 of 2020

Court :

Bench : Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice Vineet Saran

Decided on : 03 Jun 2121

Relevant Statytes

Article 32, 19(1)(a), 14, 19(2), 226, 21, 19, 15(4), 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 142

Section 2(c), 160, 195, 173, 482, 200, 154, 438, 439, 435, 24, 41, 41A, 317, 205, 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973

Section 124A, 268, 501, 505, 188, 511, 304A, 499, 505(1)(c), 153B, 153, 503(b), 295A, 153A, 88, 92, 93, 154, 498A, 499A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

Section 52, 54, 60 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005

Section 9(1-A) of the Madras Maintenance of Public Order Act, 1949

Section 7(1)(c) of the East Punjab Public Safety Act, 1949

Section 4(1)(a) of the Indian Press (Emergency Powers) Act, 1931

Section 24 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Brief Facts & Procedural History

1. The case was filed by a local BJP leader in Himachal Pradesh on May 6, 2020, over Vinod Dua (petitioner) YouTube Show. 

2. In his video, according to the respondent, he states that Narendra Modi has used deaths and terror attacks to garner votes and also claims that there is a lack of testing facilities and availability of the Personal Protective Kits and also there is no sufficient information about it.

3. The respondent states the statements and claims made by the petitioner are false and unfounded. This directly. This is a threat of violence directed against the government and the Prime Minister. He also instils fear in the people and disrupts public order by spreading false information, such as the government's lack of testing facilities, which is completely untrue. Mr. Vinod Dua committed the aforementioned conduct, which is criminal under Sections 124-A, 268, 501, and 505 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. (IPC). It will cause public discontent and disrupt public tranquillity unless strong action is taken. As a result, you are urged to take swift legal action against Mr. Vinod Dua and punish him appropriately.

4. The office of the Station House Officer, Police Station Kumarsain, District Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, issued a Notice for Appearance dated 11.06.2020 under Section 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The petitioner responded, stating that because he is over 65 years old and suffers from an illness, he is unable to travel according to MOH standards and that he may participate in the inquiry through email or any other online mode.

5. The Status Report submitted to Honourable Supreme Court of India in response to the order of 14.06.2020 included information concerning HW News, which is owned by Theo Connect Private Ltd.

The Issues of the Case

Whether the FIR No.0053 dated 06.05.2020 registered at Police Station Kumarsain, District Shimla, Himachal Pradesh to be quashed?

Whether the request that no FIRs against members of the media with at least ten years of service be registered unless cleared by a committee to be formed by each State Government, consisting of the Chief Justice of the High Court or a Judge designated by him, the Leader of the Opposition, and the State's Home Minister, be accepted?

The Observations of the Court

1. Referring to the case Arnab Ranjan Goswami vs. Union of India and Others, (2020) 14 SCC 12, in which relief was granted against multiple FIRs arising from the same television show and pending in locations other than Mumbai, but the Honourable Supreme Court of India refused to exercise jurisdiction under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. The basic FIR lodged in Mumbai was quashed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. There are no special circumstances or reasons to hear the petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, nor is there any cause to skip the Indian Penal Code, 1860 procedure, according to the argument. The defendants argue that rather than hearing the instant petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, the petitioner should be consigned to the Indian Penal Code, 1860 remedies.

2. Referring to the case Amish Devgan v. Union of India and Others, (2021)1 SCC 1, Honourable Supreme Court of India did not dismiss the petition on the merits, instead of proceeding to analyse the arguments on the merits and ultimately declining the petitioner's request for the FIRs to be quashed.

3. Honourable Supreme Court of India observes that the petitioner did not make any remarks in the Talk Show that the Prime Minister had utilized fatalities and terror attacks to get votes or that the Prime Minister had gained votes via acts of terrorism. The exact Hindi translation of the original episode has been recorded. There are no such claims in the genuine translation, and no objections were filed that the translated version was inaccurate in any manner. The petitioner did claim that India's airstrikes on Balakot, Pathankot, and Pulwama were exploited as political events to gather votes, but no charges against the Prime Minister were made, as mentioned in the F.I.R. It is true that some segments of the Talk Show claim that there were insufficient testing facilities; that there was no information on the quantity of PPE kits/suits, N95 masks, and three-ply masks available in the country; that respiratory devices and sanitizers were being exported rather than kept for use in the country until March 24, 2020; and that there was no information on the quantity of PPE kits/suits, N95 masks, and three-ply masks available in the country, that owing to roadblocks, supply claims were interrupted; and that migratory laborers were a major concern. It was also said that because supply claims had been blocked, some individuals were afraid of food riots, which had not occurred in the country.

4. Referring to the case Kedar Nath Singh vs. the State of Bihar, (1962) Supp. 2 SCR 769. It applies to instances under Sections 124-A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 as stated in the declaration of law at placetum (e). According to this Court, only those actions that are intended or have the potential to cause public disorder or disturbance by the use of violence are punishable.

5. Honourable Supreme Court of India also observes that the petitioner's statements, when read in light of the principles derived from the Kedar Nath Singh vs. the State of Bihar, (1962) Supp. 2 SCR 769 and against the backdrop of the circumstances in which they were made, can best be described as expressions of disapproval of actions taken by the Government and its functionaries for the current situation to be addressed quickly and efficiently. They were not created to incite others or demonstrate a proclivity for causing disruption or disturbing public peace through the use of violence. The petitioner was within the permitted limitations set out in this Court's Kedar Nath Singh vs. the State of Bihar, (1962) Supp. 2 SCR 769. It's possible that some of the facts in the third statement about the date the ban went into force were incorrect. However, based on the overall tone of the talk show and all of the utterances, it cannot be claimed that the petitioner went beyond the parameters outlined in this Court's decision in Kedar Nath Singh vs. the State of Bihar, (1962) Supp. 2 SCR 769

6. It must be clarified, however, that under Kedar Nath Singh vs. the State of Bihar, (1962) Supp. 2 SCR 769, every Journalist will be entitled to protection, as every prosecution under Sections 124A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 must be in strict accordance with the scope and ambit of said Sections as explained in, and completely by the law laid down in Kedar Nath Singh vs. the State of Bihar, (1962) Supp. 2 SCR 769

7. Honourable Supreme Court of India also observes that as a result, prosecuting the petitioner for the crimes listed in Sections 124A and 505 (1) (b) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 would be unfair. Those offences are not made out at all, based on the accusations in the FIR and other relevant facts, and any prosecution would be a violation of the petitioner's rights protected under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.

8. Honourable Supreme Court of India also observes that the Honourable Supreme Court of India does not need to address the technical question of whether the initiation of proceedings in respect of offences punishable under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and/or Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code could only be made after an appropriate complaint was made in writing as submitted by the petitioner, because none of the offences submitted by the respondents, in our opinion, are attracted in the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and/or Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The Honourable Supreme Court of India has reviewed these communications and concluded that nothing in them was infringed as a result of the petitioner's Talk Show. The order was then used to argue that the Court had issued specific directives and expected the media to retain a strong sense of responsibility and ensure that unconfirmed news that may cause panic was not spread. The direction was given in two ways: first, after the episode was uploaded on March 30, 2020, and second, after the episode was uploaded on March 30, 2020. The Supreme Court of India has not identified any flaws or illegalities in the petitioner's remarks, which may lead to the conclusion that he was seeking to broadcast any news that could cause panic. As a result, the requirements of Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 would not be invoked.

9. Referring to the case Dr. Subhash Kashinath Mahajan, (2018) 5 SCC 1, The directive to undertake a preliminary investigation was not compatible with the statutory framework, while the directions issued by the two-Judge Bench amounted to intrusion into the sphere designated for the legislature, as stated in paragraph 70.

10. Honourable Supreme Court of India also observes that any relief given in response to the second petition would undoubtedly trespass on the legislative domain, in our opinion. As a result, the Honourable Supreme Court of India has no problem in denying the petition and dismissing the Writ Petition in its entirety.

The Decision Held by the Court

Honourable Supreme Court of India held that

1. dismiss FIR No.0053, filed against the petitioner on 6.5.2020 at Police Station Kumarsain, Distt. Shimla, Himachal Pradesh; 

2. but deny the plea that no FIR be filed against a person with at least 10 years of experience in the media unless cleared by the Committee as indicated.

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