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In Arnab v Antonia, this round goes to Goswami: SC extends protection by three weeks, emphasises importance of freedom of the press

The Court emphasised on the importance of press freedom and proceeded to quash all the subsequent FIRs and complaints against the Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV after all FIRs were merged into one earlier.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dealt a great blow for Arnab Goswami in his ongoing tussle against Antonia Maino aka Sonia Gandhi and the Congress party. The Court emphasised on the importance of press freedom and proceeded to quash all the subsequent FIRs and complaints against the Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV after all FIRs were merged into one earlier. The Court also said that no further FIRs related to the matter shall be entertained. Arnab Goswami was also protection from coercive steps for the next three weeks.

The investigation related to the FIR filed in Mumbai will continue as the Court observed that the FIR could not be quashed under Article 32. It was also said Arnab Goswami is free to approach a competent for the same. Mumbai Police has also been directed to provide him with protection. However, Arnab Goswami’s request to transfer the case to the CBI was rejected. The Court also observed that the content of the multitude of FIRs and complaints were completely identical. Its order said, “All FIRs and complaints arising out of the same broadcast made by the petitioner. Complaints in identical terms. The language content and sequencing of complaints are identical.”

Delivering the verdict, Justice Chandrachud said, “Article 32 of Constitution of India entrusts the court to protect Fundamental Rights. Journalistic freedom lies at the core of Freedom of Expression. India’s freedom of press stays as long as journalists can speak truth to power.” “Freedom is not absolute. Multiple complaints will have a stifling effect. The right of journalists under Article 19(1)(a) is higher and free citizens cannot exist without free media. Questions you cannot answer are better than questions you cannot question,” he added.

The Court observed, “There can be no quashing of FIR under Article 32. The Petitioner has the liberty to pursue remedy before the competent court. The FIR does not cover offence of criminal defamation, therefore it is not necessary to address prayer on that issue.” “Subsequent FIRs and Complaints are quashed, and no other FIR or complaint shall be entertained or pursued on basis of broadcast made by Petitioner on 21st April. Second writ petition regarding the alleged attack is dismissed,” it said.

Arnab Goswami vs Sonia Gandhi

Earlier, after senior party leader Kapil Sibal was grilled by the Supreme Court for photocopied FIRs across numerous states in the country, the Bombay High Court had refused to ban Republic TV from airing across television sets, as demanded by members of the Congress party. The petition for the same was filed by Bhai jagtap, a member of the Legislative Council from the Congress party, and Suraj Thakur, state president of the Maharashtra Youth Congress in the said court.

On April 27, 2020, Arnab Goswami was questioned by Mumbai Police for over 12 hours for questioning Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi’s silence over Palghar Sadhu lynching. He was questioned after the Congress party filed more than 150 FIRs against him in various states of the country. The Supreme Court had merged all the FIRs into one and transferred to Mumbai. A week later, a fresh FIR was filed by Raza Academy.

Over the Palghar incident, Arnab, during the hearing on quashing of FIR requested that the case be transferred to the CBI for further investigation since he has made serious allegations against the local police in Palghar incident. “It’s a union vs state problem and I have become a party to this. Of course I can go to Bombay High Court, my request is that the CBI can probe and file report,” Goswami said in the court.

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