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  • Holding that every journalist will be entitled to protection in terms of Kedar Nath Singh case, the bench observed 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

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said every journalist should be granted protection against prosecution under penal provisions of sedition, barring when his/her news report either incited violence or disturbed public peace.

In a 117-page judgment, a bench of Justices U.U. Lalit and Vineet Saran relied upon decision in Kedar Nath Singh versus State of Bihar (1962), which upheld validity of sedition provision but with riders, to quash an FIR against senior journalist Vinod Dua registered on May 6, last year by Shimla police.

Dua was represented by senior advocate Vikash Singh along with advocates Varun Singh and Nitin Saluja.

Holding that every journalist will be entitled to protection in terms of Kedar Nath Singh case, the bench observed 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.

Citing the contents of the FIR lodged by a local BJP leader, the bench said statements that the Prime Minister had used deaths and terror attacks to garner votes were not made by Dua in the talk Show. Also, on the content of Dua's show on lockdown 2020, the bench noted: "The situation was definitely alarming around March 30, 2020, and as a journalist, if the petitioner showed some concern, could it be said that he committed offences as alleged?"

The bench noted that Dua's comments were certainly not made with the intent to incite people. "The petitioner was within the permissible limits laid down in the decision of this Court in Kedar Nath Singh," said the top court.

The bench added Kedar Nath Singh judgment shows that a citizen has a right to criticise or comment upon the measures undertaken by the government and its functionaries. "It is only when the words or expressions have pernicious tendency or intention of creating public disorder or disturbance of law and order that Sections 124A and 505 of the IPC must step in," said the bench.

"In our view, the statements by the petitioner as mentioned hereinabove, if read in the light of the principles emanating from the decision in Kedar Nath Singh and against the backdrop of the circumstances when they were made, can at best be termed as expression of disapprobation of actions of the government and its functionaries so that prevailing situation could be addressed quickly and efficiently."

However, the top court rejected Dua's plea to lay down that no FIR be lodged against a journalist with 10 years' experience unless approved by a committee at state level.
 

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