Senior journalist Vinod Dua, who faces sedition charges filed by Himachal Pradesh police for a YouTube broadcast, on Friday told the Supreme Court that freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution extends to citizens on social media and in the press.
Appearing for Dua, senior advocate Vikas Singh told a bench of Justices U U Lalit and Vineet Saran that the United States Bill of Rights “mentions both citizens and press”, whereas Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution makes no mention of the press.
Singh said that under Article 19(1)(a), the press also enjoys whatever rights citizen enjoys, although citizens do not report on a daily basis. But with the advent of social media, citizens are also writing, he said.
The senior counsel said the absence of free press will prove detrimental to democracy.
On the FIR by Himachal Pradesh police against Dua, Singh said there is “complete distortion” in it from what was actually said. “What he said is not definitely there in the FIR,” he said.
Singh referred to the 1962 SC ruling in Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar and pointed out that the court laying down the law on sedition had said that disloyalty to a government established by law is not the same thing as commenting in strong terms upon the measures or acts of government, or its agencies, so as to ameliorate the condition of the people.
The court, he said, had also ruled that a citizen has a right to say or write whatever he likes about the government, or its measures, by way of criticism or comment, so long as he does not incite people to violence against the government established by law, or with the intention of creating public disorder.
Therefore, any criticism of the government will not be sedition unless it instigates violence, he added.
The arguments remained incomplete and will continue on September 2.
Dua had moved the court seeking quashing of the FIR registered over remarks made by him in a YouTube broadcast. He has also prayed for certain safeguards to be laid down while registering FIRs against mediapersons with at least 10 years’ standing.
On June 14, the top court had granted Dua interim protection from arrest, which is continuing.