The Supreme Court of India today granted interim protection of three weeks to senior journalist Arnab Goswami against multiple FIRs filed against him by the Congress party in various states. The Apex court also directed to merged all FIRs into one which will be investigated in Mumbai, where the Republic TV Editor-In-Chief is based, and stayed all the FIRs till further orders.
The court said that during this period of 3 weeks, Goswami can approach the trial court for anticipatory bail. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi represented Arnab Goswami in the court through video conferencing, while Congress leader Kapil Sibal appeared for the Congress party in the bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah.
The petition filed by Arnab Goswami multiple FIRs have been lodged against him in several states, most of which are Congress ruled. The petition alleged that the machinery of those states have been set in motion with an oblique and ulterior motive and without due and proper application of mind. It also said that by filing multiple FIRs, the Congress party is trying to muzzle free speech in the country. Goswami’s petition said that the petitioner has been encouraging the use of his channel to foster communal harmony, and is against any commnunilisation of events by various political parties for their own benefits. The petition states that “a prominent national level political party and its members harbor ill-will, hatred and personal vendetta against the petitioner”.
Kapil Sibal argued that the Goswami was trying to ignite communal violence by putting Hindus against minority, and contended that it does not come under freedom of speech. Sibal also asked if Rahul Gandhi can appear in defamation cases, why Arnab Goswami can’t. In a bizarre argument, he also raised the issue of cases of filed against Kanhaiya Kumar for incitement of riot, and said that Goswami also did the same and so he should also be probed under similar charges. Issuing a veiled threat of graver charges against Goswami by Congress state govts, Kapil Sibal said ‘who knows sedition charge can be invoked against Arnab Goswami tomorrow’.
Kapil Sibal asked the court to don’t give protection to him as he wants to divide the country, and said it will send a wrong message and he will go on creating divides. He termed the petition as based on “fake freedom of speech”.
Former AG Mukul Rohatgi objected to citing Rahul Gandhi and Kanhaiya Kumar by Sibal, saying that Arnab Goswami is not a politician like that. He also said that Goswami only questioned the role of police in the lynching incident, and silence of the Congress party, and he didn’t pander to any religion like Congress party is arguing.
In its order, the court said that no coercive action can be taken against Goswami during the three weeks interim period. The bench also asked the petitioner to modify his petition to include all the FIRs against him in various police stations in several states. The court also said that if any more FIRs are filed against him after the order, those will also remain stayed till further orders by the apex court. The court also didn’t issue an order prohibiting the channel from broadcasting any content.
The court also directed the Mumbai Police Commissioner to provide security to Arnab Goswami and Republic TV. The bench also said that the petitioner must cooperate in with the investigation.
FIRs were registered against Arnab Goswami in f Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Jammu & Kashmir based on complaints filed by Congress leaders. The Complaints were filed after Arnab Goswami questioned the silence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi over the Palghar lynching incident on his show on Republic TV on 21st April. FIRs mentioned offences under Sections 117, 120B, 153, 153A, 153B, 295A, 298, 500, 504, 505, 506 etc of the Indian Penal Code and Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000
Arnab Goswami was assaulted by Congress goons in Mumbai on the wee hours of 23rd April after the Congress party launched a nationwide attack against him and filed multiple FIRs.