‘Journalists entitled to safety’: Supreme Court quashes sedition case

Justices Uday Lalit and Vineet Saran cited a 1962 constitution bench verdict in Kedar Nath Singh‘s case to argue that a journalist could not be put on trial under Section 124A of the IPC for “condemnation of policies of the State and its functionaries,” and dismissed a lawsuit brought last year in Himachal Pradesh against journalist Vinod Dua over a YouTube show. 

The court, making reference to Kedar Nath’s case while demonstrating the basic requirements for registration of a first FIR under Section 124A, said that an individual has the right to critique or comment on the initiatives taken by the government and its functionaries as long as he does not instigate people to violence against the government established by law or with the intent of creating public disorder. 

As per the court, sedition involves a sentence of three years to life in prison, a fine, or both. Sections 124A and 505 (statements fostering or encouraging enmity) of the IPC shall be used only when the words or phrases have the destructive tendency or objective of causing public disturbance or disrupting law and order. 

As it turned down Dua’s plea for the establishment of a committee in every state to ratify FIRs against individuals in the media with at least 10 years of experience in the profession, the bench referred to its 1962 judgement, which laid out the prerequisites before registering a sedition case.

The decision was taken two days after another SC court voiced concern over the usage of India’s sedition legislation, indicating that it will clarify the parameters of the colonial-era criminal legislation to determine what constitutes sedition and what does not. 

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