Vinod Dua sedition case rejected by Supreme Court

Supreme Court of India – ‘Every journalist entitled to protection’

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Vinod Dua on YouTube Screenshot
Vinod Dua on YouTube Screenshot

New Delhi, 3 June 2021 – The Supreme Court of India quashed (or threw out, in plain English) the sedition case registered against senior journalist Vinod Dua in Himachal Pradesh. The verdict was given by a bench led by Justice UU Lalit on Dua’s petition seeking the quashing of the case registered against him in connection with a YouTube video in which he criticized the Modi government’s handling of the Covid-19 lockdown last year.

The bench accepted Vinod Dua’s defense based on the principles of the Kedar Nath judgment of the Supreme Court in 1962. The court acknowledged the journalist’s statement referring to its own judgment on sedition and freedom of expression concerning his statements in the video. “If read in the light of the principles emanating,” from the judgment, and, “against the backdrop of the circumstances when they were made, can at best be termed as [an] expression of disapprobation of actions of the Government and its functionaries so that prevailing situation could be addressed quickly and efficiently.”

The court maintained that to prosecute Vinod Dua for the alleged offenses would violate his rights of freedom of speech and expression. The bench relied extensively on the principles outlined in the Kedar Nath judgment to give relief to him. While the Kedar Nath judgment upheld the constitutional validity of sedition law in India, it nevertheless held that free speech, discussions on matters of government functioning and their criticism, and freedom of press are, “Essential for the proper functioning of the processes of popular government.”

The bench also said and made clear that every journalist will be entitled to protection under the judgment, saying, “It must, however, be clarified that every Journalist will be entitled to protection in terms of Kedar Nath Singh, as every prosecution under Sections 124A (sedition) and 505 (publishing or circulating rumor) of the IPC must be in strict conformity with the scope and ambit of said Sections as explained in, and completely in tune with the law laid down in Kedar Nath Singh.”

The Supreme Court’s verdict of 3 June 2021 in the Vinod Dua case a few days after another bench of the court decided to examine the sedition law and its interpretation in the light of free speech and media rights. Thursday’s verdict comes days after another apex court bench decided to examine the interpretation of sedition law, particularly in the light of media rights and free speech.

Vinod Dua suggesting for a special procedural appeal

Journalists have documented the routine violation of the law by district magistrates and police who arrest citizens and journalists without pressing charges or producing them in court within any reasonable time. This has also been said in public by Supreme Court justices in public lectures in recent years.

Vinod Dua had suggested a special procedural plea to restrain police from registering sedition cases against any media personnel with ten years’ experience unless cleared by a committee comprising the Chief Justice of the state high court or a judge designated by him, the leader of the opposition, and the home minister of the state. The Supreme Court bench rejected this plea, saying that to allow such a plea would be directly encroaching the domain of the legislature. What the court didn’t say was that this complex procedural plea would also have put senior journalists above citizens.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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