Delhi :- The top court of the country on Friday gave a relief to the noted TV journalist and Republic-Bharat anchor Arnab Goswami by extending protection from arrest for three weeks with multiple FIRs against him in various states for alleged hate speeches and for defamation of Congress President Sonia Gandhi. A bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice DY Chandrachud and comprising Justice MR Shah observed there should be no restraint on the media. “I am averse to imposing restrictions on media,” said Justice Chandrachud making an oral observation.
While hearing of the case, the Apex Court also ordered that all charges against him for inciting communal violence, enmity and hatred between communities be investigated through one FIR in Mumbai, including one in Nagpur. Also, there would be no investigation into fresh FIRs arising out of the April 21 show, and asked senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Goswami, to club all FIRs and complaints, and bring them on record. The noted TV anchor Goswami, in the petition, urged the top court that no coercive measures should be taken on FIRs registered against him in Maharashtra, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh and union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. He contended that action against him is an attempt to curb free speech and the Freedom of Press under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution.
Senior advocate Vivek Tankha, representing Chhattisgarh governments, urged the court to issue directions asking for a restraint order on Goswami from making such statements. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Maharashtra government, suggested that the Nagpur FIR could be transferred to Mumbai.
The court observed that it intends to protect the petitioner from the day and permit him to move the anticipatory bail application before the trial court or the High Court. Sibal contended that the court must clarify that its order will have no bearing on the merits of the application. The bench replied that Goswami cannot be subjected to proceedings in different parts of the country. The court will conduct a further hearing on the matter after 8 weeks. The top court has also asked the Mumbai police to give protection to the Republic TV office and the petitioner.
Arnab has been booked under bailable offences, including sections 153 (to punish persons who indulge in wanton vilification or attacks upon the religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc of any particular group or class or upon the founders and prophets of a religion), 505 (statement conducing to public mischief) and 505 (2) (in any place of worship or in an assembly engaged in the performance of religious worship or religious ceremonies) of the Indian Penal Code.
Goswami has invited sharp criticism from Congress leaders for his remarks aimed at Gandhi during a TV discussion on the Palghar incident in which three persons, including two sadhus, were lynched.
At least 16 complaints were filed against Goswami in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, and Chhattisgarh. He sought a stay on any action that may be taken against him, adding that the FIRs and complaints were filed across various states and the petitioner would be unable to be present in multiple courts and police stations in the matter. Two persons were also arrested on Thursday morning for allegedly attacking Goswami and his wife Samyabrata Ray in Mumbai.