A day after staying the arrest of TV journalist Aman Chopra, Rajasthan High Court on Wednesday directed the state police to not investigate allegations against him under IPC Section 124A (sedition) since the Supreme Court has passed an interim order and put on hold trial in all sedition cases pending before courts, until the Centre completes the exercise of reexamining the provision.
The High Court directed Chopra, a journalist with News18 India channel, to appear before Dungarpur police at 11 am on May 16. The court said he may not be arrested in any other FIR already filed, or which may be filed, over his April 22 TV programme.
Three FIRs were registered against Chopra in Rajasthan after the show — ‘Desh Nahi Jhukne Denge’ — was telecast on the channel on April 22.
On April 23, an FIR was lodged against him at Sadar police station, Bundi district, under IPC Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult religion of any class), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), and 120B (criminal conspiracy).
The same day, another FIR was lodged at Bichhiwara police station, Dungarpur, under IPC Sections 153A, 295A, 124A (sedition) and Section 67 of IT Act.
A third FIR was lodged at Kotwali police station, Alwar, on April 24, under the same sections as the Bundi FIR.
As per the High Court order, Chopra allegedly aired “Desh Nahi Jhukne Denge” and “allegation against him is that the said discussion was also posted on his Twitter account, which resulted in communal disharmony and communal riots in Alwar on April 22”.
On May 7, the Jaipur bench of the High Court had granted relief to Chopra in Alwar and Bundi FIRs, stating that the petitioner, Chopra, will not be arrested in these two cases “until further orders”.
Rajasthan High Court’s Principal Seat in Jodhpur is hearing the Dungarpur FIR. On May 10, the HC stayed Chopra’s arrest in that case, too.
On Thursday, the HC said that it is of the view that “the investigation, including petitioner’s interrogation, is necessary before reaching any concrete conclusion regarding commission of offences alleged against the petitioner”. The court directed Chopra to appear before the investigating officer (IO) of Bichhiwara police station, Dungarpur, on May 16. It said the IO “shall carry out the investigation/interrogation by 5 pm”.
After that, the State would be free to appeal for further opportunity for investigation, if required, on the next date of hearing — May 20.