Rupani’s resignation: Journalist was slapped with sedition for article speculating change of guard last year

Mandaviya was then union minister of state for shipping (independent charge) and chemicals and fertilisers.

The resignation of Vijay Rupani as the Gujarat Chief Minister on Saturday comes more than a year after Dhaval Patel, a journalist associated with a Gujarati news web portal ‘Face of Nation’, was slapped with sedition charge over a speculative political article titled, “Mansukh Mandaviya called by high command, chances of leadership change in Gujarat” published on May 7 last year.

Mandaviya was then Union minister of state for shipping (independent charge) and chemicals and fertilisers.

Patel was booked under Indian Penal Code Section 124 A for sedition and Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act (punishment for false warning) by the Ahmedabad Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) on May 11 for “trying to create unrest in society”, for allegedly writing and publishing the report on his portal on May 7.

He was arrested on May 13 and was in judicial custody from May 14 to May 27 after which a sessions court in Ahmedabad had granted him bail on May 27, observing that prosecution’s case prima facie did not indicate a serious offence as was being alleged by the state.

The FIR was quashed in November last year only after he submitted an “unconditional apology” before the Gujarat High Court.

While quashing the FIR, the Gujarat HC had also cautioned Patel that “as and when he may publish any article in future, no such comments be used against any constitutional functionaries without verification and he shall be cautious of not repeating the same”.

The said report had speculated the change of guard being driven by the criticism the state was faced with over rising Covid-19 cases and a resultant “mismanagement of affairs by the state machinery in tackling” of the pandemic.

The report had mentioned that with increasing Covid-19 cases in Gujarat, the “failure” of the Gujarat CM has been noted by New Delhi, and that Mandaviya was called by the BJP high command, due to which there was speculation of a leadership change in the state. The article was taken down after Mandaviya denied the speculation, while lauding CM Rupani for waging a “successful” fight against Covid-19 in the state.

Mandaviya’s denial of the speculation was also carried by the news portal.

Patel could not be reached for comment.

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