‘Criticism of PM, Govt Does Not Amount to Sedition, Every Journalist Entitled to Protection’; SC Quashes FIR Against Vinod Dua

In a significant development, the Supreme Court on Thursday held that criticism against the Prime Minister and the government does not amount to sedition as it quashed the First Information Report against journalist Vinod Dua who was charged with sedition for criticising PM Narendra Modi and his administration.

A bench of Justices UU Lalit and Vineet Saran said “We have quashed the proceedings and FIR”. Every journalist will be entitled to protection under Kedar Nath Singh [sedition] judgment,” Bar and Bench reported.

In the Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar(1962), verdict the SC had held that Section 124A IPC should be limited to “acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance of law and order; or incitement to violence”.

However, the court also rejected a prayer by Dua seeking that no FIR should be registered against any media personnel with 10 years experience unless 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 bench said.

In his plea, Dua had claimed that “There is a recent trend against the media where state governments which do not find a particular telecast to be in sync with their political ideologies register FIRs against persons of the media primarily to harass them and to intimidate them so that they succumb to the line of the state or else face the music at the hands of the police,” Live Law reported.

The complaint was filed against Dua by a Bharatiya Janata Party leader in Himachal Pradesh Ajay Shyam, accusing him of spreading rumours and misinformation about the communal violence in Delhi in February through his YouTube show. Dua was charged with grave offences under the IPC including sedition (section 124A), public nuisance (section 268), printing defamatory matter (section 501), intent to cause public mischief (section 505) and even offences under the Disaster Management Act including spreading of misinformation and false claims.