Seven petitions in seven months: Arnab Goswami's litigation in the Supreme Court and the Bombay High Court
Republic TV and its Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami have filed at least seven petitions before the Supreme Court and the Bombay High Court in the past seven months. These cases have mostly stemmed from litigation initiated by the Maharashtra government against the channel and its lead anchor.
As an example of how efficient the legal system can actually be, four out of the seven petitions filed by Goswami were listed and heard by the concerned Court the very next day.
Three of the seven cases have been disposed of, while four are still pending. The following are the petitions filed by Arnab Goswami and Republic TV since April 23 this year.
Palghar lynching, Bandra migrant workers incident
Goswami first approached the Supreme Court directly by invoking Article 32 in two separate cases, both of which were heard together.
Petition 1: It was filed before the Supreme Court on April 23 seeking quashing of FIRs registered against Goswami in various parts of the country for his remarks on a television debate, 'Poochta hai Bharat’ hosted by him on April 21 regarding the Palghar lynching incident in which three individuals including two Hindu sadhus were lynched by a mob in the presence of policemen and forest guards.
The TV programme hosted by Goswami was telecast on R. Bharat, the Hindi news channel operated by Goswami.
Multiple FIRs were lodged against him in Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh for offences of hate speech (Section 153A of IPC), insulting religious beliefs or hurting religious sentiments (Sections 295A and 298 of IPC), promoting enmity between religious groups (Section 153A of IPC) and criminal defamation (Section 500 of IPC) of Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, against whom he had made remarks on live television.
The case was listed for hearing the very next day after it was filed. The Court granted Goswami protection from arrest for three weeks while also issuing notice to the Maharashtra government. The Court also stayed proceedings in all FIRs except the first one, which was registered at Nagpur.
Petition 2: A second petition was filed by Goswami in Supreme Court on May 9 seeking quashing of another FIR filed against him for allegedly communalising the Bandra migrant workers incident. This petition was first heard on May 11 along with the petition 1.
A large gathering of people had assembled in Mumbai's Bandra, in what appeared to be a gathering of migrant labourers hopeful of returning home. There was a mosque adjacent to the spot where migrants had gathered. Goswami, on his TV debate show, had questioned the motive behind such a large gathering that had assembled near a mosque at a time when physical distancing ought to have been maintained, hinting that it was a conspiracy by the minority community.
An FIR was registered against him based on a complaint by Secretary of Raza Educational Welfare Society, Irfan Abubakar Shaikh. In this FIR too, he was charged with the same offences as invoked in the Palghar lynching case.
Besides seeking quashing of the FIR, Goswami raised an alternative prayer to transfer the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in both cases.
Eventually, the Supreme Court on May 19 pronounced its judgment in both petitions. The second petition on the Bandra incident was dismissed by the Court, though protection from arrest was granted to Goswami to enable him to pursue other remedies in accordance with law.
As regards the first petition, the Court rejected the prayer for a CBI probe into the case.
Breach of privilege motion by Maharashtra Assembly
Goswami moved the Supreme Court on September 29 challenging a September 16 breach of privilege motion initiated against him by the Maharashtra Assembly for his criticism of the government inaction in the Sushant Singh Rajput case.
The 60-page privilege notice against Goswami was sent after motions were moved against him by the Shiv Sena in the both Assembly Houses in Maharashtra.
The Supreme Court listed the matter for hearing the very next day i.e. September 30 and issued notice to the Maharashtra Assembly that day. The matter is still pending before the Apex Court.
Republic TV first moved the Supreme Court on October 10 challenging the summons issued to the network in relation to the TRP scam claimed to have been unearthed by Mumbai Police.
The petition was filed in the Apex Court challenging the October 9 summons issued to the CFO of the Republic Media Network in relation to investigation in FIR CR No. 143 of 2020.
This case was heard on October 15, five days after it was filed. The Court declined to entertain it, observing that petitioner has recourse to other remedies under law. The petitioner was then withdrawn.
Bombay High Court
In the TRP case, the battleground then shifted to the Bombay High Court with Republic TV filing a plea on October 18 challenging FIR no. 843 of 2020 filed by the Mumbai Police in relation to the scam.
The plea sought quashing of the FIR against Republic and its employees including Goswami and an order to transfer the investigation from the Crime Branch of the Mumbai Police to the CBI.
This case was also listed the next day, on October 19, when the Court was informed by the Maharashtra government that Republic TV has not yet been arraigned as an accused in the FIR. The Court recorded the Maharashtra government’s submission that in case Goswami is made an accused, he will first be issued summons by Mumbai Police while also recording Goswami’s argument that he will co-operate with the probe in case summons is issued.
The case was then listed for November 5. According to The New Indian Express, the High Court, on November 5, issued notice to the CBI on the prayer by Republic to transfer the probe from the Mumbai Police to the central agency.
Palghar and Bandra revisited
After he failed to secure the desired results from the Supreme Court, Goswami moved the Bombay High Court seeking quashing of both FIRs – the one on the Palghar lynching and the FIR on the Bandra migrant workers incident.
The Bombay High Court on June 30 observed that no prima facie case could be made out against him, and suspended the proceedings in both the cases. He was also granted protection from arrest in relation to both cases till the final disposal of the petition.
The appeal filed by Maharashtra government against this order is pending before the Supreme Court.
Habeas Corpus plea in relation to abetment to suicide case
This was the latest in the list of petitions filed by Goswami in the recent past. He approached the Bombay High Court on November 4, challenging his detention in relation to the abetment to suicide case of interior designer, Anvay Naik.
Goswami was named in Naik’s 2018 suicide note, but the probe into that case was first closed by the Raigad Police when BJP was in power in the State. It has now been reopened after the Congress-Shiv Sena-NCP coalition assumed power. Arnab was arrested by the Maharashtra Police on the morning of November 4.
Besides seeking a writ of Habeas Corpus for his release from custody, Goswami has also sought quashing of the FIR against him in connection with the case.
Later, he also filed an application for bail. The Bombay High Court heard the matter on a Saturday, November 7 and reserved its order in the matter.
This petition was listed for hearing the very next day, i.e. November 5. The Court issued notice to the Maharashtra government and listed the case for further hearing on November 6.