Arnab Goswami and Bombay HC
Arnab Goswami and Bombay HC
Litigation News

"Prima facie, no offence as alleged can be made out" Bombay High Court suspends FIR against Arnab Goswami, directs for no coercive action

The Primetime Anchor had moved the Bombay High Court seeking quashing of the FIRs registered against him on allegations of communalizing the incidents of Palghar lynching and the Bandra Migrant crisis of April 2020.

Shruti Mahajan

The Bombay High Court today said that there is no prima facie case made out against Republic TV's Editor in Chief Arnab Goswami in the FIRs registered against him by the Mumbai Police and suspended these FIRs.

Court has directed for no coercive action to be taken against the Anchor by the Police. (Arnab Goswami vs the State of Maharashtra)

The Division Bench of Justices Ujjal Bhuyan and Riyaz Chagla today suspended the two FIRs registered against Anchor-Editor Arnab Goswami on allegations of causing public and communal disharmony. Admitting the plea filed by Goswami seeking quashing of the FIRS, the Court extended the interim protection that was granted to him on June 9.

This petition is admitted for hearing... All further proceedings in FIR No.164 of 2020 before the N. M. Joshi Marg Police Station, Mumbai and FIR No.137 of 2020 before the Pydhonie Police Station, Mumbai shall remain suspended
The Bench said

Finding that prima facie no offence was made out, the Court directed for no coercive action to be taken against Goswami by the Police. The Court as such said, that the interim relief that was granted to the News Anchor against any coercive action would continue.

"...on an overall consideration, we are of the prima facie view that FIR No.164 of 2020 on the face of it does not make out commission of any criminal offence by the petitioner."
Bombay High Court

The vires of Sections 153A and 153B(1) of the Indian Penal Code, two of the provisions Goswami was charged under, have also been challenged in the Writ petition filed by him. As such, the High Court has directed for the Attorney General for India to be notified as regards the same.

"...office of the Attorney General of India be notified as regards challenge to vires of sections 153A and 153B(1) IPC"
The Court added

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.

Goswami had approached the Apex Court seeking quashing of the multiple FIRs that had been filed against him across various States in relation to the Palghar lynching program he anchored. The Supreme Court had kept one FIR alive which was registered in Maharashtra and had refused to quash the same and directed him to approach the appropriate forum. The Anchor had then moved the Bombay High Court.

The High Court, placing reliance on the judgment delivered by the Supreme Court in Goswami's case as regards freedom of the Press, passed the directions for suspension of the FIRs. The Court also said stifling any discussion and debate merely due to the mention of a place of worship cannot be permitted. It said,

"India is now a mature democracy. Seventy years into our republic we cannot be seen to be skating on thin ice so much so that mere mention of a place of worship will lead to animosity or hatred amongst religious communities causing upheaval and conflagration on the streets. Subscribing to such a view would stifle all legitimate discussions and debates in the public domain."

The Bombay High Court, after hearing both the parties at length, had reserved its order on June 13 and had directed the parties to submit their written submissions in the meantime.

Goswami was represented by Senior Advocates Harish Salve and 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 Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal along with Advocates Raja Thakare, Rahul Chitnis, Avadhut Chimalkar, Akash Kavade, Siddharth Jagushte, instructed by Advocate Deepak Thakare.

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Arnab Goswami vs State of Maharashtra - 30.06.2020.pdf
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