The Honorable Supreme Court today on April 24,2020, in relation with the multiple FIRs filed against Republic TV Editor- in-Chief Arnab Goswami, provided three weeks protection from arrest to him and stayed actions all the FIRs against him until further orders in State(s) of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Jammu and Kashmir except for the one filed in Nagpur Police Station.
The FIR filed in Nagpur to be shifted to Mumbai for further investigation.
A bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah said ‘ no coercive actions to be taken against him for two weeks.
“Court intends to protect the petitioner for a period of Three weeks from today and permit him to move anticipatory bail application before the trial court or high court. For a period of two weeks, the petitioner shall be protected against any coercive steps in relation to the FIRs arising out of
the telecast which took place on April 21″
“Save and except for FIR registered at Nagpur, (FIR number 238 of 2020 dated April 22, 2020 registered at Nagpur, further proceedings arising out of and relating to FIRs and complaints listed out petition shall remain stayed until further orders.”
The Bench also held that if there is any other FIRs filed thereafter, (arising out of or related to present cause of action) shall also remain stayed till further orders. The Bench has directed the Commissioner of Police , Mumbai to give protection to Republic TV Office and the Petitioner ‘ The Petitioner must cooperate with the investigation ‘, said the Bench. Senior Advocate Mukul Rohtagi appeared on behalf of Mr. Goswami justified it as ” extremely urgent matter”.
“WRIT PETITION UNDER ARTICLE 32 OF THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA SEEKING QUASHING OF FIRST INFORMATION REPORTS REGISTERED AGAINST THE PETITIONER IN THE STATES OF MAHARASHTRA AND CHHATTISGARH AND NO COERCIVE STEPS IN RELATION TO ANY FIR WHICH MAY BE REGISTERED IN CONNECTION WITH THE BROADCASTS AIRED ON REPUBLIC TV/R. BHARAT ON 16 APRIL 2020 AND 21 APRIL 2020 AND THE COMPLAINTS FILED AGAINST THE PETITIONER IN RELATION TO SUCH BROADCASTS”
Rohatgi submitted that the individual complainants could not be impleaded as his client had to file the petition in one day after the “murderous attack” on him and his wife.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibbal appeared for the State of Maharashtra contented that the language and remarks used by Mr.Goswami was inflammatory and provocative in nature and he (Arnab Goswami) tried to communalise and add political color to the Palghar Mob Lynching, where 3
men including two Hindu sadhu were murdered by the frenzy mob. Mr. Sibbal went on to call this petition by Mr.Goswami as “fake freedom of speech” The FIRs were filed alleging that the news debates led by him on the Palghar lynching incident in Maharashtra amounted to promotion of enmity between groups, creation of communal disharmony, promotion of feeling against national integration etc. The FIRs mentioned offences under Sections 153A, 153B, 295A, 500, 504, 505 etc of the Indian Penal Code.
He contended that the FIRs were lodged at the instance of Indian National Congress to “coerce, harass and intimidate the petitioner in order to muzzle the media and in particular the petitioner, and conducting investigative journalism to bring the truth before the public”. Therefore, the criminal actions resulted in the infringement of his fundamental right to speech under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, the petition stated.
Mr. Goswami in his petition said the followingContrary to the tenor of allegations in the complaints filed against the Petitioner, the Petitione
has time and again encouraged and used the platform of its channel to foster communal harmony, especially in the present critical time of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the Petitioner has been strongly opposed to any propagation of any communalization by various other political parties for their own vested interests.
It is inconceivable that the broadcast aired on 21 April 2020 in relation to the Palghar incident could have incited any communal tension and it is apparent that only one political party is taking offence on the broadcast.”
The plea by Mr.Goswami stated that the Congress party leaders and workers interpreted his arguments from the news channel debate as “complete and vindictive misreading of only a minuscule part of the broadcast”. Mr. Rohtagi rebutted in favor of Mr. Goswami -“strongly opposed to any propagation of any communalisation by various other political parties for their own vested interests”. The Press Council of India condemned the attack on Goswami and issued a statement that
“violence was not the answer even against bad journalism