‘Arnab runs a Kangaroo court’, high drama at the Tharoor vs Arnab defamation hearing

After Arnab Goswami’s new channel Republic TV hit the screens on 6th May, he and his team has put out numerous exclusive stories to boost their initial ratings. This largely has paid off after Republic TV enjoyed about 52% viewership share in its first weekly TV viewership ratings released after its launch.

All this high octane reporting though has come at a price. One of the exclusive stories which Republic TV ran was about the death of Sunanda Puskhar – third wife of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor – who had died in Delhi on 17th January 2014 under mysterious circumstances.

During his coverage, Republic TV had put forth claims that furthered the ‘murder angle’ in the case. Arnab, during the telecast, was also hurling various questions at Shashi Tharoor, which had initially prompted Tharoor to respond with his ‘farrago’ tweet.

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As Arnab refused to relent under pressure of heavy words, Tharoor probably decided that offense was the best defense and proceeded to file a defamation case against him and Republic TV at the Delhi High Court on 26th May.

Tharoor reportedly demanded Rs 2 crores in damages for the ‘defamatory’ statements against him which aired from 8th to 13th May. Tharoor had apparently also demanded that Republic TV should not report anything related to Sunanda Pushkar’s death until the investigation is completed by the Delhi police.

The plea by Tharoor reportedly claimed that it was not out of place to suggest that the Republic TV’s reports were meant to possibly lead the viewers to believe that Sunanda Pushkar was murdered either by Tharoor or at the instance of Tharoor.

This led to the High Court issuing a notice to Arnab to respond to Tharoor’s lawsuit, the hearing for which took place earlier today.

The hearing resulted in high drama with both the sides not holding back when it came to pulling punches. As reported here, Tharoor’s lawyer had begun their argument by claiming that Arnab’s Republic TV was nothing but a banana Republic and that it runs its own Kangaroo court. The plaintiff also claimed that Republic TV had carried out the reporting with an agenda in mind. They also claimed that the whole reporting was one sided.

To this the High Court responded that they couldn’t curb Republic TV’s right to investigate and that there was no chargesheet regarding that matter for 3.5 years. The plaintiff then interestingly acknowledged that there were some  unanswered questions which should remain so and police should be allowed to do their job. They stated that they weren’t looking for a gag order but wanted protection from the onslaught. They then challenged Arnab to prove his findings in court and followed it up by claiming that they were certain that Arnab and his team had no shred of evidence.

The Arnab’s side too countered strongly. They claimed that they would justify each and every statement made by Arnab and his team. They further claimed that there has been 3.5 years since the death the matter has been in the public domain for long. Plus they claimed they were only stating hard facts.

The High Court then responded by stating that Arnab and co could not resort to name calling like Arnab proclaiming Tharoor was running away from him and was not coming to an interview. The High Court also stated that they couldn’t call Tharoor a criminal and can just put out facts. The Arnab’s legal team accepted that argument and claimed they would advice his client to cut the rhetoric, though they pointed out that Tharoor too had used rhetorical and condescending language in his ‘farrago’ tweet.

The court then affixed 16th August as the next date of the hearing and asked for a written submission within two weeks.

It remains to be seen if Arnab continues with his reporting of the matter or that the both parties end up with a mutual ‘gag’ agreement.

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