The Bombay High Court today stayed two FIRs filed by Mumbai police against Arnab Goswami, anchor and Chief Editor of Republic TV and granted him interim relief over alleged communalization of the incidents of Palghar lynching and the gathering of migrant workers at Bandra railway station.
Division bench of Justice Ujjal Bhuyan and Justice Riyaz Chagla remarked “prima facie no case was made out against him”.
No coercive action should be taken against him, the bench stated.
The petitions were reserved on June 12.
Arnab Goswami was booked under Sections 153, 153 A, 153 B, 295 A, 298, 500, 504, 505(2), 506, 120 B and 117 of the Indian Penal Code,
Goswami was represented by Senior Advocates Harish Salve and MilindSathe.
Submissions were made that the FIRs were politically motivated with an attempt to muzzle critical voices against the Maharashtra Government.
Salve had submitted, stating that the Maharashtra police had mala fide intentions against Arnab Goswami:
“At a time when the country is in lockdown, calling Arnab for investigation should be looked into. A party in power is calling a journalist for investigation because he made an adversarial statement against the leader of a political party. What was he asked, what is the structure of your company? Who owns Republic TV & Bharat? What is your wife’s role?What is the relevance of these questions?”
To report about communal incidents is the right of a journalist, Salve submitted.
Salve reiterated that details about Arnab Goswami ‘s interrogation from outside while he was still inside NM Joshi Marg police station were tweeted by Srivatsa YB and Gaurav Pandhi of the Congress.
Salve further contended,
“We have made serious allegations. However strong his comments may have been against the Congress President, but to cross a line & invoke 153A is malicious. When you’re reporting on communal incidents & making a personal allegation of someone being communal, it comes within the Right to Freedom of Expression.”
State of Maharashtra was represented by Senior Advocate KapilSibal and submitted that under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitutionpress freedom does not include the right to indulge in communal propaganda.
“A journalist has a right to Freedom of Expression & right to private investigation of an incident. But a journalist does not have a right to declare that a person got killed only because he was a Hindu. What if it turns out to be false after an investigation?We need to investigate the motive. Why did Arnab assume that the man was killed because he was a Hindu. What is this if not putting one community against the other?”
In second FIR, Sibal had submitted relating to gathering of large crowd of migrants at Bandra station:
“Arnab Goswami asked: Who caused the congregation of a crowd near a Masjid?
Why didn’t he ask – Who caused the congregation of a crowd near Bandra station? If Masjid was used just as a statement of fact, why did he twist the question?
So he’s not using Masjid as a matter of fact. A journalist has no right to consider his investigation to be gospel & air it to create disturbance. All this will be investigated. It will be investigated as to why was he doing a series of such shows? What was his intention?”
Arnab Goswami’s prayer to transfer the investigation from Maharashtra police to the Central Bureau of Investigation and hisprayer to quash the FIR was declined by the Supreme Court saying that powers under Article 32 of the Constitution cannot be exercised for such purposes. Multiple FIRs filed in various states over the reports were quashed and the investigation only to the FIR lodged in Mumbai was confined by the Supreme Court.
The SC bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shahgranted him interim protection from arrest, and gave liberty to him to move the Bombay High Court with respect to quashing of FIR.
For the second time on June 10, after the Bombay HC declined to grant him exemption from such appearance, Goswami had to appear before Mumbai police for interrogation.