"Police is trying to teach a lesson", Harish Salve argues FIR against Arnab Goswami is malafide - Live Updates from Supreme Court
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"Police is trying to teach a lesson", Harish Salve argues FIR against Arnab Goswami is malafide - Live Updates from Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is hearing a second petition filed by Republic TV Editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami seeking the quashing of an FIR registered against him, this time in relation to the Bandra's migrant incident of April.

Bar & Bench

The Supreme Court is hearing a second petition filed by Republic TV Editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami where the news anchor has sought quashing of an FIR registered against him, this time in relation to the Bandra's migrant incident of April.

The Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah has taken the matter up for hearing via video conferencing. The anchor is praying that the Court direct the Mumbai Police to not take cognizance of the FIR registered against him.

A fresh FIR was registered against Goswami based on the complaint by Secretary of Raza Educational Welfare Society, Irfan Abubakar Shaikh. Goswami is accused of disturbing communal harmony through his flagship debate show on the Hindi news channel, Republic Bharat where he allegedly communalised the Bandra migrant incident.

After the nation-wide lockdown was extended on April 14, a large gathering of people had assembled in Mumbai's Bandra, in what appeared to be a gathering of migrants hopeful of returning home.

According to the petition, Goswami, in his debate show, called this incident a "conspiracy" and labelled the migrants as "actors" who were planted by people with "vested interests".

In relation to this debate show, an FIR was filed against Arnab Goswami. He was accused under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including Section 153, dealing with provocation with the intent to cause riot; Section 153A, on promoting enmity between groups; and 295A, which deals with outraging religious feelings of any class of citizens, among others. Other Sections invoked against Goswami are Sections 500, 505 (2), 511 and 120 B of the IPC.

Goswami has moved the Supreme Court seeking for this FIR to be quashed and for a blanket direction that no cognizance of any complaint be taken by any court on any FIR registered by the police on the same cause of action as in the present writ petition.

Senior Counsel Harish Salve representing Goswami takes the Court through the two incidents in relation to which FIRs and subsequently petitions before the Supreme Court came to filed.

Senior Counsel Harish Salve
Senior Counsel Harish Salve

First set of FIRs pertained to Goswami's statements on Sonia Gandhi after the Palghar Mob Lynching in April this year. Salve tells the Court that Goswami was interrogated for 12 hours by the Mumbai Police, says nature of the FIR shows it was an "arm twisting tactic"

Salve points out that Police is investigating an FIR in relation to a debate telecast which raises questions about the role of the Police itself. He adds that questioning was carried out during the lockdown period by two officers one of whom has tested positive for COVID-19

Salve argues that the kind of questions being put to Goswami by the Police could have also been asked via video conferencing.

Justice DY Chandrachud, who is on the Bench with Justice MR Shah, says that all the points raised here can be raised before the Bombay High Court.

Salve invokes Article 19(1)(a) and the question of Freedom of the Press, says can the Police and CRPC be applied to telecasts and opinions, either on TV or in print, without any checks and safeguards? "This will have a chilling effect of the freedom of the press", Salve says

Justice Chandrachud says that a balance must be drawn. Court adds though that the Bombay High Court may be moved in this specific case. Court clarifies that its intervention earlier was on account of multiplicity of FIRs across the country on the same cause of action.

Justice Chandrachud says that Bombay High Court may be moved if what is sought is quashing of the FIR in Mumbai and or quashing the fresh one filed on complaint by Secretary of Raza Foundation.

Salve suggests malafide on the part of the Police, says that Goswami has made serious allegations against the Police in his telecast on Palghar Mob Lynching case which is now being investigated by the Police. He adds that he has no problem if the probe is transferred to the CBI.

Salve says probe should be transferred to CBI. Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal, for State of Maharashtra, says CBI probe will go into your (Goswami's) hands.

SG Tushar Mehta objects to Sibal's statements, says he has serious reservations against the same.

Salve argues that Sibal's statement is a clear indication of why the probe needs to be transferred to the CBI. "I have been caught in a crossfire," Salve says adding that this is a political issue between the State and the Centre.

Salve details the course of the investigation Goswami was put through, says that questions pertaining to editorial decisions, workings of the channel, among others were asked. Goswami was asked about investments in his channel, Salve tells the Court.

CEO of the Republic Network was questioned for over 6 hours, Salve tells the SC. He asks what relation would the CEO have with a news telecast that purportedly and allegedly disturbed communal harmony.

The offence alleged against Goswami pertains to disturbing communal harmony and compare that with the nature of the investigation, Salve says. There has to be a balance between A.19(1)(a) and the sanctity of a criminal investigation.

Salve reiterates that serious allegations were made by Goswami against the Police; the case should either be heard on merits by the Court or the probe should be transferred to the CBI "When it comes to FoE, Your Lordships have been forgiving in hearing A. 19(1)(a) matters"

Salve urges the Court to consider transferring the case to the CBI and for the agency to file its report before the Court. It's a Centre vs State issue and I (Goswami) have become party to this, Salve says.

SG Tushar Mehta says this is a peculiar case, with two disturbing features. Person accused in several cases says he has no faith in the Police and Police also comes to Court to insulate itself from pressure and threat, Mehta says.

Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta
Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta

Mehta says that a 12 hour long questioning of an individual in a case of this nature is disturbing. Mehta adds that the Supreme Court must consider transferring the probe to an independent agency in light of the allegations made by Goswami and Police against each other.

Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal for the State of Maharashtra, begins making submissions, says that Goswami was put to a systematic line of questioning, this cannot be said to be harassment.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal

Sibal says that there was a clear violation of A.19(1)(a) and the accused was stigmatising people by way of sensationalism; he made allegations against the Congress party.

Senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi making his submissions.

Senior Advocate AM Singhvi
Senior Advocate AM Singhvi

Senior Counsel KV Vishwanathan making submissions on behalf of the complainant in the second FIR filed against Goswami. The second FIR is in relation to Goswami's debate program on the Bandra migrant incident of April and Goswami is accused of communalising the incident.

SG Mehta says that the way in which the State Police has acted with respect to Goswami is undesirable "in a matter of this nature". Mehta says this is the first time Police has sought to be insulated from threat and the accused has also said he has no faith in the Police.

SG Mehta says that the difference between other cases and this case is that the Police has made counter allegations in this case regarding threat and pressure.

Mehta says that if a prima facie case is made out against Goswami then the only solution appears to be to transfer the probe to an independent agency. The accused would not allege harassment and the agency would not need insulation from threat, Mehta says.

Salve makes rejoinder arguments, says they are trying to stifle a voice unpleasant for them. Salve says Police is trying to "teach me (Goswami) and my profession a lesson" by sending out a message that "what we are doing is wrong"

Salve says his submission is that the probe should be taken away from the Mumbai Police.

Salve submits that the action against Goswami is a concerted action by one political party against a journalist, says one political party is targeting Goswami.

Salve argues that all the complainants in the first set of FIRs were members of one political party. "They want to teach this journalist a lesson," Salve tells Supreme Court.

Salve says that the affidavit filed by the Police chief seeking protection from Court against an accused is "distressing."

Salve also questions the case made out against Goswami, says that different parts of the program in question have been taken out of context to make a case against him.

Justice DY Chandrachud expresses inclination to extend the interim protection granted to Goswami while the Court reserves its judgment. "All the FIRs are word to word same", Justice Chandrachud says referring to the first set of FIRs filed against Goswami.

Sibal says that if the FIRs are same, the Court may quash them, but Goswami has said that the Congress party is behind communal disharmony.

Supreme Court reserves its order, says interim protection granted to Goswami on April 24 shall continue to be in operation till the order is pronounced.

Court indicates that the order on whether the probe against Arnab Goswami would be transferred to an independent agency will be pronounced later this week. Police's claim of threat and pressure by Goswami will also be taken into account.

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