New Delhi, April 24: The Supreme Court on Friday granted journalist Arnab Goswami protection from coercive action for three weeks in various cases filed against him over remarks made during a television discussion on lynching in Maharashtra’s Palghar.
The bench of justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah also issued notices to the Centre, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana and union territory of Jammu and Kashmir where cases have been registered against Goswami. The court also stayed all FIRs against him except the one registered at Sadar Police Station in Nagpur. It transferred the FIR in Nagpur to Mumbai where it will be investigated.
The FIRs were filed for hate speeches and for defamation of Congress president Sonia Gandhi for remarks made by Goswami during his primetime show on the Hindi language channel of his Republic TV which aired on April 21.
Goswami had moved the Supreme Court on Thursday seeking a stay on the FIRs.
Goswami hosted a discussion on the Palghar lynching case on his TV channel which, he said in his plea before the Supreme Court, questioned the tardy investigation, inconsistent versions of the authorities and the administration and the state government’s silence on the incident.
Three people – two seers and their driver – were killed by mob in Palghar district of Maharashtra on April 16. reportedly in the presence of 10 policemen and forest guards.
Goswami accused the Congress, which is part of the government in Maharashtra, of leading a well-coordinated, widespread, vindictive and malicious campaign against him. Goswami claimed that the FIRs registered against him are false and vindictive and have been done by the Congress activists to harass and intimidate him and dissuade him from conducting investigative journalism and bringing the truth before the public
“The complaints and FIRs are a part of well-coordinated and malicious campaign by the Congress and its members of instituting false and baseless complaints against the Petitioner before different police stations simultaneously in various parts of the country,” Goswami said in his petition.
The complaints and FIRs, Goswami alleged, have been registered with the intention to muzzle free speech under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
The petition, however, does not mention anything about Congress president Sonia Gandhi though some of the FIRs against Goswami are for criminal defamation of Gandhi. Goswami submitted that he has time and again encouraged and used his Republic TV to foster communal harmony, especially in the present critical time of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Goswami was attacked on Thursday while he was coming back to his home from office with his wife. The Republic TV chief has filed a police complaint in which he said that the attack took place around 12:15 am. Goswami and his wife escaped unhurt in the attack.