New Delhi, May 11: The Supreme Court on Monday extended the interim protection from arrest to Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami and also reserved its order on the journalist’s plea seeking quashing of an FIR by Mumbai police in connection with a TV show on the gathering of migrants outside Bandra railway station on April 14.
The court also reserved its order on a plea seeking transfer of the case from the police to the Central Bureau of Investigation, The Indian Express reported.
In his plea, the journalist contended that the “FIR is politically motivated” and that Mumbai Police “harbors ill-will and malice towards” him. Goswami has sought protection from coercive action and quashing of the FIR.
During the hearing, defence advocate Harish Salve termed the FIR as an “arm twisting tactic” and said his client was questioned for over 12 hours by the Mumbai Police amid the nationwide lockdown. He also alleged that one of the officers who had probed him tested positive for Covid-19.
The senior lawyer further said that the actions of the cops will have a chilling effect on the freedom of press. “The CEO of the company was questioned for six hours. What does a CEO of the company have to do with a news telecast,” he said.
Citing examples of the questions asked by the cops, Salve said, “The offence is of disrupting the communal harmony but please see the nature of the investigation.” He was referring to the multiple FIRs against the journalist by Congress leaders and workers over his alleged derogatory remarks against party chief Sonia Gandhi during a news show on the lynching of three persons, including two sadhus, in Palghar in Maharashtra.
Appearing for the Maharashtra government, advocate Kapil Sibal said, “You are stigmatising people by sensationalising issues.” He added: “This communal mongering has to stop. Decency and morality need to be followed. He is making allegations against the Congress party.”
The FIR was lodged on a complaint by secretary of Raza Educational Welfare Society, Irfan Abubakar Shaikh, alleging that Goswami tried to create hatred against Muslims through the show.
Denying the charge, Goswami has said in his plea, “Republic TV was the first TV channel to report the fact that political interest groups, mainly leaders of the Congress, were spreading false news and orchestrating lockdown violations in Mumbai… was matter of national concern.”
On April 24, while hearing a plea by Goswami, the Supreme Court granted him protection for three weeks from coercive action in connection with these FIRs. The court had stayed all FIRs against him, except one registered in Nagpur. The court transferred that FIR to Mumbai to be investigated with the FIR regarding the alleged attack on Goswami and his wife.