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Disaffection towards government constitutes offence of sedition: Gujarat govt tells HC

By Our Representative
Opposing the plea to quash sedition charges against the Gujarati online news portal “Face of Nation” editor Dhaval Patel, who was subsequently arrested in May second week, the Gujarat government has told the High Court that this is not possible since investigation is still going on, and such a step would be “premature”. 
Patel was arrested on sedition charges following the publication an article in his news portal speculating that Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani would be replaced by Mansukh Mandaviya, another senior Cabinet colleague. The article had alleged that Rupani would be replaced because he had failed handle the coronavirus crisis in Gujarat.
Opposing the grant of any interim relief or staying the investigation, special public prosecutor Mitesh Amin, who appeared on behalf of the state government, insisted, even disaffection, contempt or hatred towards the government in a speech constitutes the offence of sedition.
Seeking to set aside the FIR registered against Dhaval Patel, senior advocate Anandvardhan Yagnik argued before Justice Sangeeta Vishen that any speech or article that does not incites violence should not attract sedition charges.
Yagnik added, the state was heavily harping on the single bench judgment passed by the Gujarat High Court in the matter of Patidar leader Hardik Patel, in which the latter could be seen in asking distressed youth to kill policemen instead of committing suicide.
Yagnik said that while in the Hardik Patel case, the statement “incited” violence, “In the present instance all the petitioner has reported is a speculation that there might be change in the leadership because of the failure of the present leader to handle the coronavirus crisis.”
Also, Yagnik added, “The same was put to rest when Mandaviya tweeted and clarified things. No ingredients of a seditious act are satisfied in the present case.”
The court ruled that it would hear both the parties on whether to regard to grant of interim relief to Dhaval Patel on May 26.

Bail plea in sessions court

Meanwhile, the application seeking regular bail before the City Civil and Sessions Court, Ahmedabad, couldn't be taken up for hearing on Friday, as the investigating officer (DCB Police Station, Gaekwad Haveli, Jamalpur) expressed his inability to attend.
The demand for allowing the Ahmedabad sessions court to decide on bail was made by Mitesh Amin, public prosecutor, during the hearing in the Gujarat High Court on Thursday in the plea to cancel the sedition charge against the journalist.
Yagnik commented, "It seems that such absence of the investigating officer is conscious, willful and deliberate as the specious reason given was Covid-19 pandemic. It is surprising that this is the reason that was put forward by the investigating officer as the hearing these days takes place virtually, through video conferencing."
Dhaval Patel is in judicial custody since May 14, 2020. The bail plea will now be has be taken up for hearing May 27.

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