On Monday, the Republic TV Editor-in-Chief, Arnab Goswami, thanked the Supreme Court of India for its intervention against the high-handedness of the Maharashtra government.
His statement comes in the backdrop of the apex court’s directive to the Maharashtra government to file an affidavit, listing all cases against Goswami and the Republic TV and also to the news network to submit the future course of action. The Maharashtra government had moved the Supreme Court, challenging the order of the Bombay High Court to stay the investigation against Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami. The case pertains to the alleged derogatory remarks made by Goswami against Congress President Sonia Gandhi in connection to the Palghar case and supposed attempts at ‘communalising’ the gathering of migrant workers in Bandra, Mumbai.
In a statement released by the Arnab Goswami, he stated, “I am grateful for the observations of the Supreme Court today and for its intervention. As the people of India know, this is the worst case of state terrorism on a news organisation since the Emergency. The Republic media network will place the vendetta encyclopedia of the Maharashtra government before the Supreme Court. This will include all the actions of the police commissioner carried out with the approval of the Chief Minister.”
Arguments made in the Supreme Court
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for the Maharashtra government, submitted the transcripts of the programmes conducted on Republic TV by Arnab Goswami. He asked, “The High Court has stayed and suspended the FIRs while admitting the matter. It says you (Police) cannot investigate the matter. How can the investigation be stayed?”
Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde observed, “Problem is in the course of the investigation, some authorities use unfair means. This is a purely intellectual matter and verbal matter.” He stated that in the particular case, there was nothing to be recovered from the complainant. As such, it becomes pertinent to ensure justice is done without resorting to unfair means. He noted, “Police can ask questions, even the statute says that and we don’t think that the Courts should interfere in that but it has to be done in a certain manner.”
Advocate Manu Singhvi proposed that investigation in the case should be allowed without resorting to coercive steps. The Maharashtra government has sought permission to issue summons to Arnab Goswami for interrogation and assured that he will not be arrested. While Singhvi claimed that a message might go in the society that ‘some people are above the law’, CJI Bobde reiterated, “While nobody is above the law, some people are targeted with higher intensity. There is a culture these days, that some people need a higher degree of protection.” At the same time, he emphasised on the need for ‘responsible journalism’ and maintaining harmony in the society.
Republic TV and Maharashtra government directed to file affidavits
The Supreme Court will hear the case again after two weeks. Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government has been asked to file an affidavit, listing all FIRs seeking to prosecute Arnab Goswami and his channel during the time period. Republic TV’s lawyer Harish Salve has been directed to submit an affidavit too, highlighting the channel’s future course of action. “The point is this that we would like you (Salve) to put on affidavit and give a picture of the course of things to come. Every day we are getting something,” CJI Bobde stated.
Supreme Court to hear the matter next after two weeks by which time #ArnabGoswami (and #RepublicTV) as well as State of Maharashtra to file their respective affidavits detailing all cases the Anchor and the channel are sought to be prosecuted in.#SupremeCourt— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) October 26, 2020
Bombay High Court stayed FIR against Arnab Goswami
On June 30, the Bombay High Court had stayed the FIRs filed against Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami by the Mumbai Police. The Court observed that Mumbai Police had failed to demonstrate any prima facie case against him. The Bombay High Court has ordered that no coercive actions be taken against him. The Bombay High Court observed that the transcript of the clip from his news show did not demonstrate a communal angle to the coverage. The Court emphasised on the necessity to uphold the freedom of the press and consistent with its observation, granted relief to Arnab Goswami.
Arnab Goswami at loggerheads with the Maharashtra government
Arnab Goswami and the Maha Vikas Aghadi government are at loggerheads since the prime time show aired on Republic Bharat over the lynching of Hindu sadhus in Palghar. Several FIRs were filed against the news anchor and he was called to the police station in Mumbai where he was grilled for more than 11 hours. A case was also filed against him and his channel Republic TV for broadcast on April 14 and 15 regarding the Bandra migrants incident.
Arnab had also alleged that one of his reporters and the camera person was unlawfully detained by the Maharashtra government when they were on a trail of an investigative story in Navi Mumbai. Another Republic TV journalist Pradeep Bhandari was reportedly recently encircled physically by the Mumbai Police and was detained illegally. It was alleged that Pradeep was assaulted as well and was not provided with access to lawyers.
A few days back, Republic TV was also targeted in a TRP manipulation case when the Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh convened a press conference and insinuated that Republic TV paid bribes to manipulate its TRP. However, hours later Republic TV cited Hansa Research’s report to allege that the complaint of TRP manipulation carried the name of India Today and not Republic TV. Days later, puncturing a hole in Param Bir Singh’s claims, the Maharashtra government had admitted in court that Goswami and Republic TV are not accused in the TRP fraud case.