case-law, lady justice, justice

VINOD DUA v. UNION OF INDIA 2021 SCC  SC 414

NAME Vinod Dua v. Union Of India
CITATIONWRIT PETITION (CRL.) NO.154 OF 2020
BENCHUday Umesh Lalit, Vineet Saran
PETITIONERSVinod Dua
RESPONDENTS UOI  & Ors.  

FACTS OF THE CASE:

  • On March 30, 2020, Mr. Vinod Dua, a Padmashri laureate and longtime journalist, posted a video on his YouTube channel, HW News Network, which was part of an edition of his program, “The Vinod Dua Show.” In this video, petitioner Mr. Dua discussed the national lockdown and the serious health problems brought on by COVID-19. He continued by saying that there weren’t enough testing facilities owned by the government.
  • The absence of adequate information regarding the availability of supplies such as N95 masks, PPE kits, and other items was another topic of discussion. He continued by discussing the significant problem of labour migration in our nation. The petitioner made his position clear by claiming that the video’s contents are straightforward critiques of how the government operates and that they are not, under any circumstances, supposed to be crimes.
  • On June 6, 2020, a FIR (FIR No.0053) was filed, citing two video timestamps that were made at the following time and making the following claims[1]:
  1. In the film, he claims that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has exploited terror events and deaths to win support for his policies at 5 minutes and 9 seconds.
  2. In the first five minutes and forty-five seconds of the film, he asserts that the government lacks adequate testing facilities, has made exaggerated claims on the accessibility of Personal Protective Kits (PPE), and that there is little data regarding those. He continued by saying that the shipment of cleansers and ventilators was only halted on March 24, 2020.
  3. Under Indian Penal Code Sections 124A, 268, 501, and 505, a formal complaint was filed. In addition, the petitioner received a notice according to Section 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure requiring an appearance at the Kumarsain, Himachal Pradesh police station. The petitioner listed his multiple health conditions, travel limitations, and means of communication—including virtual modes—for his trip from Delhi to Himachal Pradesh.

ISSUES RAISED

  1. Whether the petitioner used sedition in his comments under 124A of IPC?
  2. Whether the petitioner is guilty of a public nuisance or an illegal omission that caused injury under 268 of IPC?
  3. Whether the petitioner’s comments were defamatory as according to section 501 of IPC?
  4. Whether the petitioner’s comments were conducted to public mischief under section 505 of IPC?
  5. Whether there is a necessity for the judiciary to establish a committee to check and clear the FIRs issued against the persons of media with at least 10 years’ experience?

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED ON BEHALF OF THE PETITIONER

  • The petitioner vehemently stated that the video’s contents are a straightforward critique of how the government operates and cannot, under any circumstances, be considered offenses. according to Indian Penal Code Sections 124-A, 268[2], 501[3], and 505.
  • Furthermore, the commission of specific activities that would generate hatred, contempt, or other negative feelings toward the legally established Indian government, as well as actions that would instigate violence or cause public disturbance, are necessary elements for the establishment of the offence of sedition under section 124-A[4] of the Indian Penal Code.
  • There isn’t even a hint in this instance that the petitioner did anything wrong with the Indian government or any other state government. firmly stated that the claims made in the FIR that the Prime Minister obtained votes by acts of terrorism and that the Prime Minister used threats and terror attacks to win votes were untrue.
  • The Petitioner made no such statements. The petitioner was entitled to and limited to critical examination of the government’s operations in his capacity as a journalist. If one were to watch the complete televised footage, it would demonstrate that the petitioner’s goal was to uphold the greatest standards of journalism and media independence.
  • His acts fell within the bounds of his right to free speech and expression, which is protected by Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, and were fully covered by Explanations 2 and 3 of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code as well as the exemption to Section 505[5] of the Indian Penal Code. Furthermore, the order allowed the media to freely debate the epidemic and stated that neither the petitioner nor any other party had disobeyed any such orders or published any untrue news. The data presented in the program was derived from publicly accessible sources.
  • It was vigorously argued that, with regard to an offence under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, cognizance could only be granted pursuant to Section 195 of the Code upon a written complaint submitted by the public servant in question, whose orders were purportedly violated, or by an individual holding an administrative higher position than the public servant in question. The claims cannot be supported since these legal conditions have not been met. It was also contended that there was no evidence of the components of the offences listed in Sections 501 and 505 of the Indian Penal Code.
  • As a result, the criminal proceedings against the petitioner should be annulled since they violated the fundamental rights provided by the Indian Constitution and abused the legal system. The petitioner specifically asked that the Court create instructions regarding the filing of First Information Reports (FIRs) against members of the media who hold a certain position, similar to what happened in the case of medical practitioners who relied on a string of precedents in this regard.

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED ON BEHALF OF THE RESPONDENTS

  • The respondents’ attorneys contended that the petitioner had made an effort to disseminate false or misleading information and incite fear among the populace. The unfounded claim that “some people feared that there could be food riots post lockdown”—which had the ability to completely undermine public order—was used to justify their actions. The Disaster Management Act’s Sections 52 and 54 would apply to and penalise such an activity.
  • Section 52[6] – Punishment for false claims.
  • Section 54[7] – Punishment for a false warning.
  • With respect to the second prayer, the attorney contended that granting it would give the impression that the court is overstepping its bounds within the legislative branch. They continue by saying that any preliminary investigation, as proposed by the petitioner, would be illegal and neither authorized nor permitted by the law.
  • The council further stated that the petitioner did not physically appear before the Himachal Pradesh Police and that, as a result of the petitioner’s disobedience of the relevant authorities directives, the case would be brought under Section 188[8] of the Code of Criminal Procedure and Section 511 of the Indian Penal Code. They also asked for a probe into the same issue, stating that Section 188 and Section 195[9] should be applied to the point at which the court takes cognizance of the case, not earlier, and that the situation should be permitted to be looked into.
  • Before publishing or making such claims in light of the pandemic, the petitioner was required by the Press Council of India’s (2010 Edition) Norms of Journalist Conduct to properly verify and validate the facts, data, and their sources.

RATIONALE

  1. A judgment is known for its influence and relevance in relation to the context in which it is rendered, as well as for its efficiency, knowledge, and creativity in interpreting the law. This lengthy decision has wide-ranging effects outside of academia in addition to setting a precedent for its ability to weave the national legal system together.
  2. The most crucial factor to take into account is the exact minute this ruling became operative. Undoubtedly, the threat of sedition and an anti-national atmosphere are prevalent in the times we live in.
  3. The government often uses the enforcement of laws that limit freedom to stifle the voices of those who disagree with it. Sedition is a delicate subject, particularly when it’s aimed at the highest As this verdict attests, each has a conflicting and subduing effect on the other, making it impossible for the judiciary to strike a balance between individual freedom and State sovereignty over the constitutional fulcrum.
  4. Often blurry and fleeting in memory is the thin line between seditious advocacy of violence against the government from lawful criticism. Power struggles between the State and the individual have a long history and have persisted over centuries and entire civilizations. Because such a clash is inevitable in matters pertaining to the dominance of human freedom and sovereign authority[10]. The charges were rather serious considering the state of society today, but the court handled the case without fear, favour, or intervention.
  5. The Court has appropriately distinguished between justifiable political criticism and criticism that incites hostility toward the government. At a time when the media’s credibility was being questioned because of its yielding to political pressure, the Court has also restored the media’s impartiality. This decision serves as a reminder of the media’s function as democracy’s fourth pillar.
  6. In addition to being reorganised in accordance with constitutionality or judicial precedents, the laws pertaining to sedition, media independence, and freedom of speech and expression also came as a relief in a divisive political climate where individual freedom and independence seemed to have been seriously compromised. Rather than becoming a weak precedent that will be lost to time or rarely recalled, the verdict will uphold the people’s independence from State rule and restore the public’s faith in the judiciary.
  7. This contemporary ruling will increase public trust while acting as a timeless instrument to oppose state hegemony without running afoul of sedition laws.
  • The Observation of the court was that the judgment is not only known for its efficacy or erudition and its brilliance in curating the law but its impact and relevance at the backdrop of the context of which the judgment is pronounced.
  • This lengthy ruling has far-reaching effects outside of academics in addition to having legal precedent due to its superior weaving of the national legal system. The date this ruling went into force is the most important consideration. Without a doubt, we all live in a time where there is a threat of sedition and an anti-national climate. The state apparatus frequently uses the law as a weapon against freedom in an attempt to silence dissenting voices. Sedition is a delicate topic, especially when it involves opposing the highest-ranking official in the hierarchy. X.
  •  The judiciary faces a difficult challenge in maintaining a delicate balance between individual liberty and State sovereignty over the constitutional center, as each has a restraining and contradictory effect on the other, as this ruling attests to. The fine line that separates legitimate criticism from slanderous instigation of anti-government violence is frequently blurry and disappears into thin air. The struggle for power between the State and the individual has existed historically and has been carried down through generations and cultures.
  • When it comes to the primacy of individual freedom and sovereign power, such confrontation is unavoidable.that despite the seriousness of the charges given the current state of society politics, the court overcame all fear, favour, or influence in resolving the case. The Court has correctly distinguished between unfair and inciting criticism of the government and the right to free speech. That the Court has also restored the media’s unwavering independence at a time when its credibility has been called into doubt due to their submission to political pressure. This ruling serves as a reminder of the goals and intentions of the media, which is the fourth pillar of democracy.
  • Not only have laws pertaining to sedition, media independence, and freedom of speech and expression been reorganised in accordance with constitutionality or judicial precedents, but they also came as a comfort and a source of assurance in a contentious political environment where people’s independence and rights appeared to have been severely undermined.
  • That the ruling would preserve people’s faith in the judiciary while defending their rights and independence from state dominance, rather than serving as a mere legal precedent that will eventually be forgotten or preserved in a seldom-used reference. This modern ruling will not only boost public confidence but also serve as a timeless tool for challenging State hegemony without drawing accusations of sedition.

INFERENCE

The Supreme Court issued the following ruling in response to the petition:

  • Filed on June 6, 2020, at Police Station Kumarsain in the Himachal Pradesh district of Shimla, the petitioner was the target of File No. 0053. “As long as he does not encourage people to use violence against the government established by law or to cause public disturbance, a citizen has the right to criticise or comment upon the measures undertaken by the Government and its functionaries,” the court decided. “Only when words or expressions have a pernicious tendency or intention of creating public disorder or disturbance of law and order must Sections 124A and 505 of the IPC step in.” The petitioner was a journalist with the right to voice his concerns, thus the court ruled that he was entitled to criticise the government’s actions.
  • However, the court rejected the plea that, absent the person being cleared by the Committee as suggested, no formal complaint be brought against a media member with 10 years or more of experience. The Supreme Court holds that the legislature and court must remain within their respective domains of jurisdiction.
  • This decision serves as a reminder of the media’s function as democracy’s fourth pillar. In addition to being reorganized in accordance with judicial precedents or constitutionality, the laws pertaining to sedition, media independence, and freedom of speech and expression also came as a relief in a divisive political climate where individual freedom and independence seemed to have been seriously compromised.
  • Rather than acting as a precedent that would eventually be forgotten or rarely discussed, the decision will uphold people’s rights and independence from State domination while restoring popular faith in the judiciary. This ruling will not only increase public trust but also provide an enduring means of opposing state power without being prosecuted for sedition.

REFERENCE

CASES REFERRED-

[1] Jacob Mathew v  State Of Punjab & Anr, AIR 2005 SC 3180; (2005) 6SCC1; 2005 Cri LJ 3710.

[2] Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh and Ors. (2014) 2 SCC 1.

ANUSHKA KUMARI

NEW LAW COLLEGE

BHARATI VIDYAPEETH, PUNE


[1]  BLOG IPLEADER, https://blog.ipleaders.in/case-analysis-vinod-dua-vs-union-of-india-on-3-june-2021-writ-petition/  , (last visited Nov. 17,2023).

[2]  Indian Penal Code, 1860, §268, No 45, Acts of parliament, 1860 (India).

[3]  Indian Penal Code, 1860, §501, No 45, Acts of parliament, 1860 (India).

[4]  Indian Penal Code, 1860, §124A, No 45, Acts of parliament, 1860 (India).

[5]  Indian Penal Code, 1860, §505, No 45, Acts of parliament, 1860 (India).

[6]  Disaster Management Act, 2005, §52, No. 52, Acts of parliament, 1860 (India).

[7] Disaster Management Act, 2005, §54, No. 52, Acts of parliament, 1860 (India).

[8] Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, §188, No. 2, Acts of parliament, 1860 (India).

[9] Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, §195, No. 2, Acts of parliament, 1860 (India).

[10] Shuvro Prokash Lahiri, Case Comment on the Supreme Court Of India Judgment: Vinod Dua Versus Union Of India & Others,volume 2 issue 1,6-7 (2021)