No coercive steps against Arnab for three weeks, says SC

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |

Published: April 25, 2020 5:40:41 am

“For a period of three weeks, the petitioner shall be protected against any coercive steps arising out of and in relation to the above FIR arising out of the telecast which took place on 21 April 2020,” the bench mentioned.
The Supreme Court Friday granted Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami safety for three weeks from “coercive steps” following a number of FIRs against him by Congress leaders and employees over his alleged derogatory remarks against get together chief Sonia Gandhi throughout a information present on the lynching of three individuals, together with two sadhus, in Palghar in Maharashtra.

The bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah which heard Goswami’s pressing plea — it was filed Thursday night time and heard Friday morning — mentioned: “For a period of three weeks, the petitioner shall be protected against any coercive steps arising out of and in relation to the above FIR arising out of the telecast which took place on 21 April 2020.”

The bench, which mentioned Goswami may search anticipatory bail throughout this era, issued discover to the respondents, together with the Centre. The discover is returnable in eight weeks. The bench stayed all FIRs, filed in numerous states, besides one. It stayed all proceedings on some other FIR or grievance that could be filed relating to the April 21 telecast.

It transferred the FIR registered at Sadar police station, Nagpur to the N M Joshi Marg police station in Mumbai the place an FIR was lodged on an alleged assault on Goswami and his spouse once they have been returning house from work on the night time of April 22. The court docket requested him to cooperate with the investigation. On the request of senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, Goswami’s counsel, the bench directed that “in addition to the personal security provided to the petitioner, if a request is made by the petitioner to the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai for providing adequate security at the residence of the petitioner or at the studio of Republic TV in Mumbai, such a request shall be expeditiously considered and, based on the threat perception, police protection shall be provided, if considered appropriate and for the period during which the threat perception continues”.

It declined to cross any route restraining Goswami from making any controversial assertion in future. Justice Chandrachud mentioned “there should be no restraint on the media. I am averse to imposing any restrictions on media”.

On the Palghar incident, Rohatgi mentioned two sadhus have been lynched by a crowd of individuals within the presence of twelve police personnel on April 16. He mentioned any individual took a video of the sadhus being lynched which confirmed “police is standing by and virtually complicit”. He mentioned there was no angle of an inter-religious battle.

“My client brought out this incident which is recorded in a video… show is of 45 minutes. He deals with questions of public interest… He raised questions on the role of police by asking what is the police doing in that state… Without anybody inviting religious issue, how were the sadhus lynched,” Rohatgi mentioned.

He mentioned it was on this challenge that Goswami posed some inquiries to the Congress chief, saying when folks of the minority are killed, the Congress get together is the primary to boost it, so why isn’t the get together chief elevating the problem of the lynching of sadhus. “The sadhus had done nothing. In that kind of a political debate, he raised the question,” he mentioned.

Incensed by this programme, a series of complaints and FIRs, he mentioned, had been lodged in varied states, most dominated by the Congress get together. He mentioned all complaints and FIRs have been principally based mostly on the defamation of the Congress chief — he went on to learn among the tweets by Congress leaders.

Rohatgi mentioned it was settled regulation {that a} defamation case can solely be filed by the aggrieved individual and nobody else. The complaints, he mentioned, are practically an identical and the sections invoked are bailable. “He (Goswami) is in fact talking about peace and why is the government not acting… police was virtually complicit in a senseless killing,” he mentioned.

“When you have a public debate… you have provocative questions. If sadhus have been killed and there is turmoil in the Hindu community, then why are you not raising any questions… This is the nature of the dispute,” Rohatgi mentioned.

He mentioned the court docket had all the time protected free speech and on this case “the idea is to muzzle the press… involve the channel and editor in these kinds of frivolous complaints”.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, showing for Maharashtra, referred to the alleged remarks made by Goswami and requested “is this freedom of speech”. He questioned how a writ petition beneath Article 32 might be on “fake freedom of speech”.

“You are trying to ignite communal violence here by putting Hindus against the minority,” Sibal mentioned. Making a reference to the Kanhaiya Kumar case, he mentioned “here you are not allowing us to investigate, while in the Kanhaiya case, it was”.

“You are fuelling communal violence,” Sibal mentioned. “Somebody has filed a complaint. Police will investigate to find out if it can be prosecuted. It’s a settled position that if an FIR is lodged and upon reading the FIR an offence is made out, then there is no question of quashing it,” he mentioned.

“If Congress folks have filed FIRs, what’s the issue… Is Goswami so particular that he is not going to seem? Don’t BJP folks file FIRs?… Rahul Gandhi is showing in a defamation case. There is not any query of safety,” Sibal mentioned.

At this level, Justice Chandrachud mentioned a number of FIRs have been filed on the identical reason behind motion and there may be floor for transferring beneath Article 32.

Sibal replied it may be for clubbing of circumstances however not for looking for safety or grant for bail. He mentioned police might determine so as to add Section 124A — sedition — tomorrow. “How can we say now what the police might or might not do… Let the police investigate and come to conclusions,” he mentioned.

Senior advocate Manish Singhvi, showing for Rajasthan, mentioned two of the sections within the FIR have been non-bailable. He contended that there was a prima facie case. “There is no denial of the statement. The context in which the statement was made is clearly covered under 153A. It’s a prima facie case of investigation under these two sections,” he mentioned.

He mentioned the “context in which it (statement) was given… is religious. FIR can be registered against any person anywhere”.

Senior advocate Vivek Tankha, who appeared for Chhattisgarh, mentioned it was a “case of misuse of the broadcasting licence”. He mentioned it had harm sentiments and had it not been for COVID-19, there would have been protests throughout the nation. “The gentleman who has come before the court is promoting communal disharmony… vitiated the atmosphere at the time of lockdown,” he mentioned.

“Today you cannot imagine the outrage… and the man is seeking protection of this court after inciting people,” Tankha mentioned, urging the court docket to not grant aid to Goswami “otherwise we would be inching towards another division of the country”.

“These people have broadcasting licences, so can they say what they want and whenever they want. If people see that such things get protected, they will be encouraged to say more. It’s people like Goswami who should be stopped from saying things… protect the integrity of the country,” he mentioned, including that tens of millions of individuals have been affected by the developments.

Countering this, Rohatgi mentioned solely Congress employees have filed circumstances. He opposed the argument that Goswami’s assertion was non secular in nature and mentioned he had solely spoken of sadhus being lynched within the presence of policemen. Goswami, he mentioned, had questioned the silence of the Congress get together and had mentioned the silence was complicity. He denied any incitement on communal traces, reiterating “sadhus are being killed… Goswami never spoke of Hindus or Muslims”.

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