The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed Himachal Pradesh police to produce records of their investigation against journalist Vinod Dua, who has been charged with sedition over remarks in a YouTube video.
The court, which on June 14 had granted Dua interim protection from arrest, ordered that this protection will continue for the time being.
A bench of Justices U U Lalit, M M Shantanagoudar and Vineet Saran said it would, for instance, like to know the progress of the probe between a date in May and June, as that is an indication of the “seriousness you bestowed to the investigation”.
Appearing for the state, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that the “immediate response is, it was lockdown”. Mehta added that he will produce all records to satisfy the court.
“We understand that you don’t want to disclose everything now but you must satisfy the conscience of the court,” Justice Lalit said, asking the State to submit the records in a sealed cover by July 13.
The court will hear the matter next on July 15.
The bench also said it will not keep the matter pending but will dispose it of on the next date of hearing. “If we are satisfied that the contentions raised by petitioner are true, we will quash the proceedings right away,” Justice Lalit said.
Appearing for Dua, senior advocate Vikas Singh said HP police had sent Dua a questionnaire and he had answered it. One of the questions, he pointed out, was about the basis of his allegations against the Centre. Dua answered that he had based it on a column written by Congress leader P Chidambaram in The Indian Express.
Singh said the police then sent a supplementary questionnaire and asked why does Dua, with 45 years of experience in journalism, have to reply on what someone else says. “This is outright harassment,” he argued.
Singh said two more FIRs were being filed against him in some other states, too.
The counsel said Dua is not obliged to give any answer, and that the police are now using the Disaster Management Act against the petitioner.
Singh referred to the Supreme Court’s recent interventions in the case involving journalists Amish Devgan and Nupur Sharma. “These were all 19(1)(A) cases,” he added.
Mehta, however, said the allegations against Devgan were different in nature.
Reading from transcripts of Dua’s video, Singh contended that there is no sedition in it. Sedition is when one incites violence, public disorder, he said.
Mehta sought a week’s time to submit his response.
The court directed that Dua need not answer the supplementary questionnaire until the court examines the matter on July 15.
The court, however, did not seem happy with the question posed to Dua in the second questionnaire, as pointed out by his counsel. “They have answered your questions…. You are entitled to investigate,” Justice Lalit said.
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