The Gujarat High Court (HC) has quashed an FIR of sedition registered against a journalist for writing an article in which he had stated that Chief Minister Vijay Rupani was likely to be replaced owing to “his failure”.
A single judge bench of Justice RP Dholaria passed the order after the journalist tendered an unconditional apology “without admission of any guilt” for the “allegedly offending article”.
The journalist, Dhaval Patel, 31, editor of Face of Nation, a news portal, wrote the article in May this year mentioning that due to alle-ged “failure” of CM Rupani in dealing with Covid-19 in Gujarat, there was speculation of a leadership change in the state with Union Mi- nister and Rajya Sabha MP Mans-ukh Mandaviya replacing Rupani.
Following the article, Dhaval was booked under section 124 a (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code and section 54 (punishment for false alarm) of Disaster Management Act. He was arrested in May and was sent to Sabarmati Central Jail for 15 days.
Subsequently, he moved a quashing petition before the court.
In its order, dated November 6, the bench of Justice Dholaria stated, “The petitioner is working as journalist and it is alleged that he has published the article in the web portal called ‘Face of the Nation’ wherein he stated that looking to the failure of the Chief Minister of Gujarat, he is likely to be replaced… he also named the replacing of the Chief Minister, which led to filing of the complaint against him by CID Crime and therefore, the petitioner moved an application for quashment of the complaint, which was entertained and placed for final hearing (sic).”
The order also refers to the journalist’s apology without admission of guilt placed before the court by the counsel of Patel. “I tender my unconditional apology for the allegedly offending article published by me in my web portal, Face of the Nation, basis which the impugned FIR has been registered against me. My unconditional apology is without prejudice and without admission of any guilt,” it stated.
Considering the arguments presented by the advocates of the respective parties, the court decided to quash the FIR while recording, “…since the present petitioner is a young journalist and he has begun his career and that from the deepest corner of his heart, the petitioner has tendered apology as quoted above… this court is satisfied with the apology tendered by the petitioner. Under the circumstances, this Court is of the considered opinion that interest of justice would be served if the present proceedings/FIR are quashed. (sic)”
The court has also cautioned the journalist from writing any such article in future and stated, “The impugned FIR/proceedings are quashed and set aside with a caution to the petitioner that as and when he may publish any article in future, no such comments shall be used against any constitutional functionaries without verification and he shall be cautious of not repeating the same.”
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