Supreme Court begins to hear petition filed by Arnab Goswami. Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah are hearing the petition.
Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi with Advocate Siddharth Bhatnagar representing Arnab Goswami. Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal for State of Maharashtra. Manish Singhvi for Rajasthan and Vivek Tankha for Chhattisgarh
Senior Counsel Rohatgi begins making his submissions, starts with taking the Court through the details of the recent Palghar lynching incident. It was during a live debate on Palghar that Goswami made the alleged defamatory statements against Congress President Sonia Gandhi
Former AG Mukul Rohatgi argues that Goswami deals with questions of public interest and questioned the inaction of police in light of the Palghar incident.
Rohatgi says, Goswami asked some questions pertaining to the silence of Congress President on killing of the Sadhus and had added that if persons from minority community were killed, INC would be first to raise the issue
It was after this program that aired in April 21 that a number of Police complaints were filed against Goswami in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Telangana, and J&K, Rohatgi to SC
Rohatgi points out most of these States where FIRs are lodges are Governed by the Congress. Rohatgi quotes and reads out certain tweets put out by some Congress leaders and workers.
Rohatgi argues that a case if defamation can be filed only by the person aggrieved and not by someone else. Rohatgi (in picture) continues, says most of the complaints are identical and all invoke same provisions of the law, i.e., Section 153, 153A, 500, 504, 295A
Rohatgi argues that in the debate program in question, Goswami is in fact talking about peace and questioning the Govt in Maharashtra for not acting and highlighting the Police inaction in the killings. Rohatgi says, "there is no religious angle"
Mukul Rohatgi narrates the incident of an attack on Goswami and his wife in the wee hours of April 22; says it was a "murderous attack" and an attack on freedom of speech
Rohatgi says this is an assault on A.19(1)(a); Goswami asked provocative questions regarding silence of the Congress president after killing of Sadhus and due to a turmoil in the Hindu community owing to the incident. This is the nature of the dispute
Rohatgi says that the idea behind multiple FIRs is to muzzle the freedom of the press. Cites precedents to show that there can be no FIR in a case of defamation, nor can there be multiple FIRs with same cause of action.
Rohatgi says his client (Arnab) should be protected with respect to these FIRs as well as any other complaints that may be filed on the Program of April 21, 2020
Rohatgi says he is grateful for the matter to be taken up today. Rohtagi concludes.
Kapil Sibal begins making his submissions for State of Maharashtra, reads out the alleged defamatory statements made by Arnab Goswami on air in April 21. Whether statements fall within the purview of free speech, says there cannot be Article 32 petitions on "fake free speech". Kapil Sibal argues that Goswami has tried to ignite communal tension by pitting Hindus against the minorities.
Sibal says it is a settled position that once an FIR us lodged, and if on its reading an offence is made out then it cannot be quashed.
If someone has filed a complaint, police will investigate and find out if it can be prosecuted, Kapil argues.
Sibal says, clearly there are offences made out in these FIRs so how can there be an A.32 plea for quashing of the FIRs. They cases may be clubbed, but not quashed
Sibal argues that the specific instance that Goswami is claiming Freedom of Speech falls under the reasonable restrictions to A.19(1)(a).
Sibal: What is the problem if Congress workers/leaders have filed the FIRs. Even BJP workers file FIRs and Rahul Gandhi appears in defamation cases filed against him. Why can't Goswami appear? asks Kapil Sibal.
Justice DY Chandrachud suggests that there may be a ground for invoking A 32 here given that multiple FIRs have been filed on same cause of action.
Sibal: The complaints may all be clubbed but cannot be for granting protection. What if the Police decides to add S.124A later?
Manish Singhvi for Rajasthan begins his submissions; says S.153A & 153B are non bailable offences and adds there is a clear prima facie case against Arnab Goswami under these provisions.
Singhvi says that the context in which the alleged defamatory statements were made has religious connotations and a prima facie case is made out. There can be consolidation of cases, but investigation cannot be stopped.
Vivek Tankha for Chhattisgarh argues that this is a case of misusing broadcasting licence.
Tankha argues that Goswami is promoting "communal disharmony" and has vitiated the atmosphere during lockdown period by hurting religious sentiments.
Tankha argues, Goswami is seeking protection from this Court after inciting people, instigating enmity between rival groups. Tankha prays that no protection should be given otherwise "We would be inching towards another division of the country"
Tankha says that if protection is granted now then it may be seen as an encouragement to say more to incite people. People like Goswami should be stopped from saying such things to protect the integrity of the country, Tankha.
Rohatgi to make rejoinder arguments. Supreme Court: Why a prayer for consolidation of all complaints is not made in the plea?
Rohatgi counters Tankha Millions of people have not been affected by Goswami's program, but it is only Congress workers who have filed cases
On Singhvi's point on religious nature of the statement, Rohatgi says Goswami only spoke about lynching of Sadhus that too in Police presence and had said that he would take Congress's silence as complicity.
Rohatgi says there was no incitement on religious lines, Goswami never spoke of Hindus or Muslims but only of killing of Sadhus
The Court expresses inclination to allow Petitioner to amend the prayer to include prayer for consolidation of FIRs and bringing the complaints and FIRs on Record
Court also expressed inclination to stay proceedings on all FIRs except one given that there is same cause of action. Cause of action arose in one State.
Court observes that it intends to grant protection to the Petition for a period of two weeks to move appropriate forum for anticipatory bail. Supreme Court further observes that Petitioner cannot be subjected to proceedings in different parts of country
Rohtagi, after taking instructions from Goswami, tells the Court that the FIR in Nagpur may be transferred to Mumbai and the same should be investigated along with the FIR filed by Goswami against the "murderous attack" on him.
Rohatgi points out that protection for Goswami's colleagues in his channel is also sought and the State or the Centre may look into that prayer
Court is dictating its order.
Supreme Court issues notice on the petition filed by Arnab Goswami, grants him protection for two weeks
In the interim, proceedings on all the FIRs except one filed in Nagpur, Maharashtra to be stayed till further orders. The FIR filed in Sadar Police Station, Nagpur to be transferred to NM Joshi Marg Police Station, Mumbai.
No coercive action against the petitioner for Three (3) weeks during which time he may move appropriate fora for anticipatory bail or other measures available to him under the law
Any other FIR filed hereafter shall also remain stayed till further orders. Matter to be heard again after 8 weeks.