In a special Sunday sitting, the Supreme Court refused to stay the direction issued by Shimla police to journalist Vinod Dua under Section 160 of Code of Criminal Procedure asking him to appear before them in relation to investigation in an FIR alleging sedition.
Refusing to stay the investigation, the bench said that the Investigating Authorities (HP Police) shall give 24 hour prior notice to Dua before they'd want to interrogate him in accordance with law. The court has, however, directed that Dua should not be arrested until July 6, the next hearing date for the case. The police may interrogate Dua at his residence, the bench added.
The court has also asked for a status report on probe by the state government.
A bench comprising Justices U U Lalit, Mohan M Shantanagoudar and Vineet Saran issued notice to the Centre, Himachal Pradesh government and police. The matter will be next taken up on July 6.
Journalist Vinod Dua was summoned by the Shimla Police in connection with a sedition charge levelled against him by local Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ajay Shyam.
The bench refused to stay the investigation, despite fervent pleas by Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, who appeared for Dua.
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 submitted.
When Singh said that the BJP leader who has filed the complaint is a "puppet in the hands" of the ruling party, the bench chided him saying "don't use such adjectives. They are not required".
The summons came two days after the Delhi High Court stayed an FIR filed against Dua for allegedly spreading fake news through his YouTube show on communal violence in Delhi in February. The FIR filed in Shimla is also related to the show.
According to the complainant Ajay Shyam, Dua's accusations against Prime Minister Narendra Modi of using death and terror attacks for votebank politics led to instigation against toppling of the government. Shyam claimed that Dua had instigated violence against the government and the prime minister by spreading "fake news".
On June 11, the Delhi High Court temporarily stayed the investigation against Vinod Dua in an FIR which alleged that he was spreading communal disharmony on his YouTube show. While holding that there's no prima facie case against Dua to warrant the registration of FIR, the Single Bench of Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani noted that there was no allegation that any adverse consequences, in terms of enmity, hatred or ill-will, much less any violence or breach of peace, occurred as a consequence of the webcast.
The FIR, which was filed by Mr Naveen Kumar, complained about a section of Vinod Dua's YouTube show which had talked about the riots that had happened in northeast district of Delhi. The FIR further recorded that Vinod Dua, through his webcast, is spreading rumours and misinformation about the sensitive issue of the Delhi riots; and that his comments/remarks in the webcast contain communal overtones, which during the current COVID crisis, is causing public disaffection, which shall cause hatred and ill-will between different communities.