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Uttarakhand HC grants interim bail to journalist held on sedition charge

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New Delhi: The Uttarakhand High Court has granted interim bail to Rajesh Sharma, a journalist charged in a sedition case.

Justice Ravindra Maithani heard the bail application filed by the journalist in FIR No. 265 of 2020, under Section 420, 467, 468, 469, 471, 120-B 124-A IPC, filed at Police Station Nehru Colony, District Dehradun.

A resident of Dehradun Dr Harendra Rawat had filed a case against Sharma on July 31 in the Nehru Colony Police Station Dehradun for tarnishing his image and the image of his wife Dr Savita Rawat by publishing fake news against them.

The said news item/video claimed that the wife of Dr Harendra Rawat and the wife of Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Trivendra Singh Rawat, are sisters. Some allegations were also levelled against the chief minister.

The counsel for the applicant, Arun Nath Chaudhary, submitted before the court that the applicant had lifted the said news item/video from a Facebook post of one Umesh Sharma.

He further submitted that the applicant has not even been named in the FIR. Sharma has been in custody for 35 days. The allegations in the FIR do not make out a prima-facie case against him.

Senior Advocate  P.S. Patwaliya argued that the custodial interrogation of the applicant is necessary.

He further said that this is the third time an attempt has been made to destabilise the government. There were two FIRs lodged earlier in the year 2018, one in the state of Uttarakhand and another in the state of Jharkhand.

The court observed that the FIR was lodged on July 31, 2020 at 4:20 pm and the applicant was arrested at 11 pm the same night. “What troubles more is as to how Section 124-A IPC is added? Even if for the sake of argument, it is admitted that some allegations were levelled against some high functionary, does it per se amount to sedition, which is punishable under Section 124-A IPC? Why was the state in such haste? Is it a cruel hand of the state, which is running over? Many questions would perhaps also require an answer in this bail,” remarked the High Court.

The Court has asked the State file a counter affidavit. Specifically some following answers should be given in the counter affidavit, said the Court.
(1) Is it true that before filing of FIR in the instant case, an application was given to the police by the informant? If so, when and where is that application? and under what provision of law, this application is taken?

(2) Is it true that on the earlier application of the informant some inquiry was conducted and if so, under what provision of Law and who has conducted it? Where is that enquiry report, let it be filed alongwith the counter affidavit.

(3) Is it true that the result of that enquiry was given to the informant? If so, when did he apply for it and under what provision of law he was given it?

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The Court has further asked, “It is also required to be deliberated as to which one is the FIR in the instant case; the earlier application given by the informant or the instant application which the State has treated as FIR?”

In view of that the Court has granted interim bail to the accused till his bail application finally disposed off. The Court list the matter for hearing on September 18.

Read the order here;

Uttarakhand-HC

-India Legal Bureau

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