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Delhi HC finds strong prima facie case in favour of Journalist Vinod Dua: Stays further investigation into FIR

The Delhi High Court on June 11, 2020 {VINOD DUA vs STATE (GOVT. OF NCT OF DELHI)} held 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. It was held that such delay would have required a preliminary enquiry - not conducted in present case.

The Single Judge of HC, Justice ANUP JAIRAM BHAMBHANI, further observed that while considering section 153A IPC and also referring to section 505(2) IPC in Manzar Sayeed Khan vs. State of Maharashtra & Anr. (2007 5 SCC 1) the Supreme Court has opined that it is  the gravamen of the offence of creating enmity between different communities, that there should be reference to a second community; and the offence cannot proceed on the basis of an allegation where only one community has been mentioned.

It was also observed that the authority of the High Court to order stay of investigation pursuant to lodging of FIR, or trial in deserving cases is unquestionable. It was observed that the power to grant stay of investigation and trial is a very extraordinary power given to the High Courts and the same power is to be exercised sparingly only to prevent an abuse of the process and to promote the ends of justice.

In the present case, the petitioner, who is a known journalist and television anchor, had filed the petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India read with section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Cr.P.C.) before the Delhi HC praying for 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.

The HC held 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.

It was also held 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. It was held that the ingredients and gravamen of the offence under section 505(2) do not seem to be made-out as per dicta of SC in Manzar Sayeed Khan (cf. para 18 of the judgment, supra).

That in view of the above factual picture, it was held by the HC that it prima-facie appears that the registration of the FIR requires to be examined on the touchstone of the law as laid down by Supreme Court, since the steps taken so far by the State do not appear to be in consonance with such law and do not inspire much confidence.

Accordingly, further investigation in the matter arising from the subject FIR was stayed by the HC, till the next date of hearing i.e. 23.07.2020.

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