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Gujarat journalist booked for sedition remanded in police custody

Last Updated : 13 May 2020, 17:18 IST
Last Updated : 13 May 2020, 17:18 IST
Last Updated : 13 May 2020, 17:18 IST
Last Updated : 13 May 2020, 17:18 IST

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A local court on Wednesday remanded the journalist booked for sedition by the Gujarat government for writing a speculative story on change of guard to one-day police remand for further investigation. Police said that the journalist Dhaval Patel will be questioned on what basis he wrote the news story. Meanwhile, ex Gujarat chief minister Shankarsinh Vaghela condemned the state government for targeting the journalist.

The journalist had written a story on his online news portal "Face of Nation" claiming that Chief Minister Vijay Rupani might be replaced by Union Minister of State for Shipping Mansukh Mandaviya in view of rising cases of coronavirus and Rupani's "failure" in containing the pandemic. The story was published on May 7. As a matter of fact, similar stories were published by several other news organisations. Some of these reports carried versions of Mandaviya in which he denied such speculations.

The FIR was registered by a sub-inspector of Detection of Crime Branch S J Desai taking a "suo moto" cognisance of the news report. The FIR alleges "At a time of pandemic (coronavirus), a baseless story has been published and circulated by "Face of Nation to send a fake message to people and create fear among them. Writing such an article is an attempt to bring instability in the state government established as per the Indian legislation." And therefore, the FIR states, "he has been booked for sedition (section 124A of Indian Penal Code) and section 45 of Epidemic Act, 2005." In the list of accused the FIR states "Dhaval Patel, the writer of the news and those who will be found in the investigation."

Meanwhile, senior Lawyer Anand Yagnki said that a petition will be filed in the high court on Thursday on behalf of the journalist for quashing the FIR.

On the other hand, former chief minister and senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Shankarsinh Vaghela condemned the Vijay Rupani government for booking the journalist for sedition and said that "everyone is talking about how the Gujarat government led by Rupani has failed to contain the virus and instead of tackling the same appropriately it is targeting the journalist for writing a news copy." He cited a tweet by BJP's Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy who said that Anandiben Patel, ex-chief minister and currently the Governor of Uttar Pradesh, should replace Rupani to tackle the virus.

Vaghela told DH that "The government should have warned the journalist and sought explanation but booking him for sedition is highly condemnable." He also said that the world was aware of the virus in January but instead of taking precaution, Gujarat hosted American president Donald Trump in a function (Namaste Trump on February 24) which was attended by about a lakh people.

"I guess there must have been 60,000 to 70,000 people from Ahmedabad city alone and there is a possibility that the event could be a reason behind so many cases of the infection being detected in the city," he said while adding, "what do you expect from this government which is run by bureaucrats, many of them working on extensions and don't have any accountability, whose aim is only to please their bosses in Delhi. Where are the elected representatives of the BJP at a time of this big crisis."

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Published 13 May 2020, 17:00 IST

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