The Supreme Court granted senior journalist Vinod Dua interim protection from arrest in connection with an FIR. Himachal Police registered the FIR alleging sedition. But the Court refuses to stay investigation and grants all permissions in the same matter.
Brief Facts of the Case
Vinod Dua is a senior journalist. BJP leader Ajay Shyam had accused him of making derogatory statements in his YouTube show ‘The Vinod Dua show’. He accused Dua of spreading communal disharmony through his show. Recently, the Delhi Police filed an FIR against him but he was granted anticipatory bail in the matter. On June 11, the Delhi High Court stayed the investigation against Vinod Dua in an FIR.
In addition to this, the Himachal Pradesh Police filed another FIR in the same matter and summoned him. This case is in connection with sedition charges levelled against him by Ajay Shyam. The Himachal police demanded his presence for the investigation in the current matter. He was thereby directed to reach Kumarsain Police Station on or before 13th June 2020 at 10 am sharp.
Mr. Dua replied to the same by stating that since he is a resident of New Delhi, he would have to quarantine himself after reaching Himachal. He sheds light on his medical condition and also states that he is a senior citizen. The MOH guidelines ask senior citizens to not travel and to stay indoors. However, he ensured full cooperation in the investigation process. He also recommends the alternative of email or any other online mechanism to do the same.
Thus, he filed a petition to the Supreme Court, seeking protection against coercive action in multiple FIRs.
Arguments Before the Court
Learned Counsel Mr. Vikas Singh appeared on behalf of the petitioner. Mr Vinod Dua contended in his plea that the FIR is bogus. He also argued that the police was proceeding against him in the most malicious manner.
Additionally, he submitted that the Himachal Police had issued a notice on 11 June 2020. He pressed for a stay on the investigation. He pointed out that none of the alleged offences has been made prima facie. In his communication of the notice, he has assured complete cooperation. This promised this through online mode or video conferencing.
A bench comprising of Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, Mohan M. Shanatanagoudar and Vineet Sara presided over this matter. They issued a notice to the Himachal Pradesh Police, and the Centre. They passed that pending further orders, the petitioner shall not be arrested in connection with the second case. Nevertheless, as per the offer made by him in his communication dated 12.06.2020, he must extend full cooperation through Video Conferencing or Online mode.
Nonetheless, the Court entitled the Himachal Pradesh Police to carry on with the investigation. The process may include interrogation of the petitioner at his residence. However, this must be after giving him prior notice 24 hours before the interrogation. They must also comply with the social distancing norms prescribed during the ongoing pandemic.
The Court further directed the police to file a complete status report. This must indicate the steps taken during the investigation. Additionally, it also directed the concerned Investigating Officer to remain present in the subsequent hearings.
The Court enlisted the case for its next hearing on 6th July.
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