SC grants Arnab Goswami protection from coercive action for three weeks

The news anchor had blatantly communalised the reportage of the Palghar lynching case on his show and alleged the involvement of the Congress party in it

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After blatantly communalising the narrative in the Palghar lynching case and even going on to accuse the Congress Party of involvement in the case Arnab Goswami found himself seeking the mercy of the Supreme Court when a series of FIRs were filed against him across the country. The FIRs spelled charges under under Sections 153A, 153B, 295A, 500, 504, 505 etc of the Indian Penal Code.

Advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for the state of Maharashtra said that Goswami’s statements during the show were highly provocative, and that not only did Goswami communalise the Palghar incident, he also made visious and tarnishing comments against Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi.

It may be mentioned that Goswami and his wife were attacked on the mid-night of April 23, while traveling back from their news studio. Goswami had then alleged that the attack was committed by Youth Congress members at the behest of the party’s top leadership. While the Press Council of India did issue a statement, purportedly in his support, many see the words in the statement as left-handed and actually an example of epic trolling. The statement said, “Violence is not the answer even against bad journalism.”

Meanwhile back at the SC proceedings, Arnab’s lawyer Mukul Rohatgi tried to paint Goswami as the victim saying FIRs had been filed against him in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Telangana and many other places in a clear bid to harass him. He said, “I have impleaded the States. I can implead the complaints also. Could not do, so since I had to file in one day because of the murderous attack on my client and his wife.”

He also tried to justify Goswami’s communal vitriol by saying questions needed to be raised in a public debate.

A writ Petition was filed by Goswami in the Supreme Court, under Article 32, for quashing all of these FIRs filed across the country. Goswami, in his petition, contended that the FIRs have been filed in gross violation of his right to freedom of speech and right to liberty. In the petition, Goswami prayed that no coercive action be taken against him with respect to the FIRs already filed and which may be filed in the future basis the same show and similar charges. It was also prayed that security be provided to Goswami, his family and his colleagues as he alleges that he was attacked by Congress Youth Wing workers on his way to his home from studio. It was further prayed that no cognizance be taken of any complaint or FIR on the cause of action in this case.

But Kapil Sibal countered Goswami’s attempt to hide communalism behind the ‘freedom of speech’argument saying, “You are trying to ignite communal violence here by putting Hindus against minority.” He further asked if Goswami had some special privileges that FIRs could not be filed against him. The FIRs have been filed in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, by the state’s Health Minister, T.S. Singh Deo and state Congress president Mohan Markam; another one in Raipur by Congress district President Girish Dubey; in Nagpur, Maharashtra by the state’s Power Minister Nitin Raut; in Bihar by Congress leader Kokab Kadri; in Punjab by Harmohinder Singh Grover and so on.

The  Bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah, after hearing the arguments, ordered that no coercive action be taken against Goswami for three weeks and that he be permitted to file anticipatory bail application before trial court or the High Court. The Court also ordered that all FIRs, except the one filed in Nagpur be stayed until further orders and any other FIR which may be filed on same cause of action will also remain stayed.

The Nagpur FIR was filed on April 22 in response to a complaint filed by Maharashtra Power Minister Nitin Raut. The FIR includes charges of giving provocation with intent to cause riot, promoting enmity between two groups on grounds of religion or race, deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs and defamation under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Further, the bench also directed Police Commissioner, Mumbai to give protection to Republic TV Office and to Goswami and also asked Goswami to cooperate with the investigation.


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