Vinod Dua and TV5 & ABN cases - when SC took a stand on Sedition charges against media
The Supreme Court took two important decisions regarding sedition charges brought against a journalist and two news channels.
In its judgement yesterday (June 3, 2021) in the sedition and other charges levied against veteran journalist Vinod Dua by a BJP leader from Himachal Pradesh, the Supreme Court quashed the charges and stated that “every journalist is entitled to protection” from such charges under the 1962 order in the Kedar Nath Singh Vs State of Bihar case.
The BJP leader from Himachal Pradesh in his complaint lodged alleged that Dua, in his show on YouTube, had stated that Prime Minister Modi had used “deaths and terror attacks” to get votes. The charges levied included sedition, printing defamatory materials, public nuisance, and public mischief.
Meanwhile, earlier this week, the Supreme Court stayed coercive action by the Andhra Pradesh police against two Telugu news channels – TV5 and ABN. A three-Judge of the Supreme Court, consisting of Dr Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice L Nageswara Rao, and Justice S Ravindra Bhat, said in their order on Monday, “We are of the view that the ambit and parameters of the provisions of Sections 124A, 153A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 would require interpretation, particularly in the context of the right of the electronic and print media to communicate news, information and the rights, even those that may be critical of the prevailing regime in any part of the nation.”
The Bench was hearing petitioners TV5 and ABN, who had challenged the FIR charges against broadcasting news and views critical of the State Government of Andhra Pradesh and its Chief Minister. The order also restrained the State Government of Andhra Pradesh from taking any coercive actions against the two news channels, till the next date of listing.
Welcoming the move of the Supreme Court, the News Broadcasters Federation (NBF) in a statement issued said that the apex court had showed concern on the colonial-era sedition laws of Indian Penal Code 1860 “that are often misused by authorities to gag and muzzle the media against broadcasting any criticism in public interest, of authorities in power”.
The NBF further said, “We strongly stand by and appreciate TV5, our respected member, who has taken this issue of Freedom of Speech and Expression. NBF believes fair and honest criticism forms the backbone of democracy. NBF herein reiterates and urges the Government of India to immediately set-up and independent neutral national agency to investigate into any allegations of professional misconduct by journalists, executives, and owners of news media company, in order to prevent selective harassment by the State Authority and to ensure the Freedom of Press.”