New Delhi, August 21: Veteran journalist Vinod Dua on Friday argued in the Supreme Court that criticism of the government does not amount to sedition.

Dua has moved the court to quash an FIR accusing him of sedition registered in the Kumarsain police station located on the outskirts of Shimla in May. The basis of the case is his YouTube show telecast on March 30. The FIR accused him of blaming the government for its COVID-19 preparedness and making personal allegations against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Appearing before a Bench led by Justice U.U Lalit, Dua, represented by senior advocate Vikas Singh, drew the attention of the court to its own judgment of 1962 on how “in a democratic setup a citizen is entitled to criticise the government with a view to change it”, The Hindu reported.

Singh quoted from the Kedar Nath judgement, which said “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”. 

The word “citizen” would also mean a member of the Press, Singh argued.

Criticism of public measures or a comment on government action, however strongly worded, would be within reasonable limits. Such comments made would be consistent with the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression. In short, fair criticism is not sedition, he said.

“The government established by law has to be distinguished from the persons engaged in carrying on the administration”, he stated.

Referring to transcripts of the show, he said the FIR has completely distorted what was said in the show. The Press should be allowed to function freely in a democracy.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was engaged in another case, appeared briefly to inform the Bench about his absence. His associate had earlier sought an adjournment. However, Justice Lalit pointed out that the case had been adjourned thrice and allowed Singh to commence his submissions. During the hearing, which spanned over an hour, Singh also highlighted the over 20-day delay in registering the FIR.

The case was finally adjourned to September 2.

Dua approached the Supreme Court after a Himachal Police team appeared at his residence on June 12 and ordered him to be present at the remote Kumarsain police station – at least a 20-hour drive from Delhi – the very next day (June 13) at 10 a.m.

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