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The Bombay High Court yesterday concluded the hearing on plea filed by the Editor in Chief of Republic TV Arnab Goswami seeking quashing of FIRs against him. The Court, while reserving its order, also extended the protection granted to Goswami from arrest till delivery of order.
The Division Bench of Justices Ujjal Bhuyan and Riyaz Chagla concluded hearing the arguments in relation to the plea filed by Goswami who sought quashing of two FIRs registered against him in relation to certain statements made by him during his news debate programs.
The Court reserved its order on the Criminal Writ petition filed by Goswami and directed the parties to submit their written notes before the Court.
Goswami had moved the Bombay High Court seeking quashing of the two FIRs registered against him on April 22 and May 2 in relation to his remarks and comments made during primetime debate shows. The comments were made during Republic TV programs pertaining to the gathering of migrant workers in Mumbai's Bandra on April 14, and the Palghar lynching incident.
Goswami was accused of making incendiary and hateful statements that caused disharmony among communities.
After the Supreme Court refused to quash the FIRs filed against Goswami in Maharashtra and directed him to approach the appropriate forum, Goswami moved the Bombay High Court.
During the hearing held earlier this week, Goswami's counsel Senior Advocate Harish Salve had sought an exemption for Goswami from appearing before the Police for investigation during the pendency of this petition before the Court.
However, the Court had directed the news anchor to appear before NM Joshi Marg Police Station in Mumbai for the questioning to be done by the Police which was scheduled for June 10.
Yesterday, Salve argued that the statements made by Goswami during his programs in question were neither politically motivated nor had any mala fide intention. In addition to this, Salve in fact said that the statements were made as matters of fact and did not aim at inciting or instigating anyone and cannot be viewed with communal undertones.
The concern over Goswami standing the risk to contract COVID-19 while visiting Police Stations was also raised by Salve who also added that there was nothing more left to be investigated in the case. The Senior Counsel not only pressed for the quashing of the FIRs but also urged for the protection from arrest to be extended in the meantime.
Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal representing the State of Maharashtra countered Salve's submissions to say that the statements made by Goswami during his primetime debate programs led to hurting sentiments of people and underscored the need for investigating the FIRs. On this basis, Sibal argued that the FIRs do not deserve to be quashed but instead need to be probed into.
The Court, after the conclusion of arguments, went on to reserve its order in the matter.
In addition to Salve, Goswami was represented by Senior Advocate Milind Sathe and Advocates Malvika Trivedi, Saket Shukla, Mrinal Ojha, Debashi Dutta, Vasanth Rajasekaran, Ishaan Chhaya, Rajat Pradhan, Sanjeev Sambasivan, Madhavi Doshi, Reshma Ravi instructed by Phoenix Legal.
State of Maharashtra was represented by Sibal along with Advocates Raja Thakare, Rahul Chitnis, Avadhut Chimalkar, Akash Kavade, Siddharth Jagushte, instructed by Advocate Deepak Thakare.