The Delhi High Court on Wednesday has stayed the investigation against Journalist Vinod Dua in the FIR registered against him on a complaint made by Delhi BJP leader who alleged that the scribe made defamatory statements conducive to public mischief on his youtube show.
A single-judge bench of Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani has issued notice while stating that, “this court is persuaded to think that the filing of the complaint and registration of the FIR deserve to be considered and deliberated further, before allowing investigation to proceed against the petitioner. Accordingly, further investigation in the matter arising from the subject FIR is stayed, till the next date of hearing.”
The Court will hear the matter next on 23.07.2020.
“Keeping in view the law as laid-down by the Supreme Court and the guidance and direction given in the above-cited precedents, without forming an opinion on the merits of this matter, this court is persuaded to think that the filing of the complaint and registration of the FIR deserve to be considered and deliberated further, before allowing investigation to proceed against the petitioner,” the Court said.
The Court was apprised by the fact that the petitioner was granted Anticipatory bail on June 10 from Delhi Court.
“Although, as submitted at the bar, the petitioner has already been granted interim protection in anticipatory bail proceedings by the learned Additional Sessions Judge, this court is of the prima-facie view that further investigation or proceedings pursuant to the FIR are likely to cause unwarranted and unjustified harassment to the petitioner,” noted the Delhi High Court in its order.
Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani noted in his order that on a prima-facie view, in the present case, the following aspects emerge from the record:
(i) That there is substantial unexplained delay in filing of the complaint and registration of the FIR inasmuch as the date of the alleged offence is 11.03.2020 whereas the complaint came to be made only on 03.06.2020 leading to registration of FIR on 04.06.2020, which is a delay of almost 3 months. Such delay would have required a preliminary enquiry as per the mandate of Lalita Kumari.
(ii) That even after registration of the FIR on 04.06.2020, as per the statement made by counsel for respondent No.1, no substantial investigation has been carried-out except for issuance of notice to YouTube ; and the petitioner has not been called to join investigation. He says, in fact that he learned of the registration of the FIR through social media and from the public domain;
(iii) That what the complainant alleges was said in the webcast, is not what appears in the transcript of the webcast ; and to that extent no cognizable offence is disclosed on the basis of the material cited by the complainant warranting registration of an FIR as per Lalita Kumari (cf. para 120.2 of the judgment, supra), Muniswamy (cf. para 7 of the judgment, supra), Bhajan Lal (cf. para 102(2) of the judgment, supra) and Devendrappa (cf. para 8 of judgment) ;
(iv) That naming the three persons in the webcast and questioning the police inaction against those persons, is based on what was recorded in the Division Bench order dated 26.02.2020 in W.P.(Crl.) No.565/2020; and therefore appears to fall within the exception to section 505, at least on first blush;
(v) That there is no allegation that any adverse consequences, in terms of enmity, hatred or ill-will, muchless any violence or breach of peace, occurred as a consequence of the webcast;
(vi) That the ingredients and gravamen of the offence under section 505(2) do not seem to be made-out as required per Manzar Sayeed Khan.
Mr Vinod Dua, who is a known journalist and television anchor, has filed the petition seeking quashing of FIR No.74/2020 dated 04.06.2020 registered under sections 290/505/505(2) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) at PS : Crime Branch, New Delhi. He has further prayed for an investigation into the registration of the FIR by respondent No.1/State, as also seeks One Crore as compensation for violation of his fundamental rights.
The petition claimed that the FIR is a “proof of the political vendetta” and is nothing but an attempt to stifle the independence of free speech guaranteed to the petitioner under Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution.
“However, the offences mentioned are serious and any action taken by the respondent (Delhi Police) would be life threatening. The petitioner is a senior citizen with co-morbidities like thalassemia minor with iron deficiency, anaemia, pancytopenia (low red and white blood cell and low platelet count), hypertension and splenomegaly, diabetes and hypothyroidism,” said the petition.
“Therefore, if the police take cognisance of the alleged offences mentioned in the FIR filed against him, it would be severely endangering his life during Covid-19. The alleged FIR filed against the petitioner is being widely circulated each day causing irreparable loss and injury to him and violating his fundamental rights,” said the petition, filed through advocates Varun Singh, Deepti Arya, Akshay Dev and Rishabh Rana.
Read the Order here
-India Legal Bureau
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