New Delhi: Freedom of press in India is implied in the fundamental rights which guarantee freedom of speech and expression to every Indian citizen. In some countries freedom of press is explicitly inscribed in the law book. The First Amendment to the US constitution for instance explicitly does that.
While quashing the sedition case against Vinod Dua, the Supreme Court on Thursday (June 3) said that every journalist is entitled to protection. In this regard, the court has referred to one Kedar Nath Singh case.
Who was Kedar Nath Singh:
Kedar Nath Singh, popularly known as KN Singh, was a communist leader from Bihar. He was charged by the state government under the British Era Sedition Law, technically speaking Section 124 (A) of the Indian Penal Code.
Singh delivered a speech in Begusarai – a Communist stronghold also known as the Leningrad of the East – on May 26, 1953, wherein he was reported to have launched a broadside on the government.
What Did KN Singh Say to Invoke the Wrath of the State:
“Today the dogs of the CID are loitering round Barauni [in Begusarai]. Many official dogs are sitting even in this meeting. The people of India drove out the British from this country and elected these Congress goondas to the gaddi… We will strike and throw out these Congress goondas as well.”
The matter now popularly known as Kedar Nath Singh vs The State of Bihar in the legal annals was contested upto the Supreme Court of India. A division bench of the Supreme Court passed an order on in the case in 1962.
What Did Court Observe While Acquitting Kedar Nath Singh:
The court upheld the Sedition Law but acquitted KN Singh. The apex court in its judgement observed that mere criticism of the government or a comment on the administration does not tantamount to sedition.
“It is only when the words, written or spoken, etc. which have the pernicious tendency or intention of creating public disorder or disturbance of law and order that the law steps in to prevent such activities in the interest of public order. So construed, the section, in our opinion, strikes the correct balance between individual fundamental rights and the interest of public order. It is also well settled that in interpreting an enactment the Court should have regard not merely to the literal meaning of the words used, but also take into consideration the antecedent history of the legislation, its purpose and the mischief it seeks to suppress”
The SC bench which quashed sedition charges against Vinod Dua, however, turned down the second prayer by the journalist seeking the formation of a committee to verify allegations against journalists before a First Information Report is registered against a scribe; and that this committee verifies and vets all such FIRs if the allegation has been made against journalist with over 10 years of experience.
Some media reports suggest that KN Singh joined Congress seven years after being cleared by the SC of sedition charges.
Singh died in his village in Begusarai in 1996.