Gujarat High Court Grants Interim Relief to News Portal Editor in the Matter of Sedition Till 26 May

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The Gujarat High Court has issued a ‘Rule’ and ‘Notice’ to the State for the interim relief. Justice Sangeeta Visheen passed this order in the case of Dhaval Rajnikant Patel v. the State of Gujarat, 2020.

 Brief Facts of the Case 

The petitioner filed this petition for quashing the FIR launched against him. Editor Dhaval is facing sedition charges for publishing a speculative political report. The report speculated the possibility of the BJP Government replacing their Chief Minister. The report in question suggested the replacement of CM Vijay Rupani with Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya. The speculation was due to his inefficiency in handling the crisis in Gujarat.

The Ahmedabad Crime Branch registered the FIR on 08.05.2020 under Section 124(A), Indian Penal Code and Section 54, Disaster Management Act. The article was first published by the editor on the news portal ‘Face of the Nation’. The local media in Gujarat then followed the said report. As a result, the editor is facing charges for creating an environment of unrest in society. The FIR stated that the article was “baseless”. It also stated that it incited “instability and atmosphere of fear” during COVID-19.

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The petitioner was taken under judicial custody on 12 May and remanded back to police custody on 14 May. He is currently at the Sabarmati Central Jail.

Issue

The main issue before the Court in the said matter is the quashing of the FIR till the time of the proper hearing. The petitioner has also requested ‘stay’ on the investigation.

So at present, the question is whether the Court should grant interim relief to the petitioner.

Arguments by the Petitioner

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Anand Yagnik, the advocate on behalf of the petitioner, argued that there is no case of sedition. The advocate further argued that the charges are not relevant as per the precedents. 

He submitted that the key ingredient for an offence was the incitement of violence. All that the petitioner did was report speculation. This speculation rested due to the tweet of Mansukh Mandaviya. This statement clarified several things. 

He requested for the FIR to be set aside and asked for a stay on the investigation.

Arguments by the Respondent

The State submitted that it is an on-going investigation. Putting a stop to the investigation at this point is a bit premature. Hence, there should be no grant of the interim relief.

Order of the Court

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The Gujarat High Court did not quash the FIR, but it ordered stay on the investigation on 22 May 2020. The Court directed the issue of Rule and Notice to the State Government for the same.

The effectiveness of this interim relief will be until the returnable date of 26 May 2020. This matter is now listed for hearing the bail application on the same date.

The Additional Public Prosecutor waived-off the service of notice of rule on behalf of respondents.


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