New Delhi: Gujarat journalist Dhaval Patel was granted bail by a court in Ahmedabad on Wednesday in a sedition case.
The editor had been arrested for publishing an article on his website, Face the Nation, purportedly claiming that chief minister Vijay Rupani might be replaced over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the state.
Sessions court judge P.C. Chauhan granted Patel regular bail and said the court would hear the accused’s plea seeking the quashing of the FIR registered against him by the city Crime Branch on May 8 under section 124(a) of the Indian Penal Code and the Disaster Management Act.
Huff Post has reported that Gujarat government lawyer Sudhir Brahmbhatt said in court that the journalist “tried to instigate and create a feeling of hatred in the minds of the people against the chief minister of the state and also tried to spread rumours, false news and mislead the people of the state by creating panic in public.” He further claimed that Patel is “habitual of doing such acts.” (sic)
The item uploaded by Patel on his news portal on May 7 suggested that the BJP high-command might remove Rupani from his post and replace him with Union minister Mansukh Mandaviya, the FIR noted
The article also claimed that Mandaviya has been summoned by the BJP party leadership to discuss this change.
The Hindu had reported that after the report in Face of the Nation, all local media in Gujarat followed up on the item, which led the Union minister to issue a statement denying the story.
Patel was picked up by a crime branch police constable on May 11 based on the FIR, which stated that the article was “baseless” and incited “instability and atmosphere of fear” in the state during the pandemic.
The Gujarat high court had recently severely criticised the Vijay Rupani-led BJP state government for trying to “artificially control” the COVID-19 epidemic, and termed the civil hospital in Ahmedabad as “good as a dungeon, may be even worse.”
Gujarat has so far shown one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the country, with the civil hospital accounting for 377 deaths – almost 45% of the total deaths in the state.
(With PTI inputs)