THE Supreme Court today granted three weeks’ protection from arrest to Editor-In-Chief of Republic TV Arnab Goswami in connection with the First Information Reports (FIRs) filed against him for the alleged defamation of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and the alleged provocative speeches made by him in a programme that was telecast on Republic TV on 21 April 2020.
“During the period of protection, Goswami would be at liberty to move an application for anticipatory bail and to pursue such remedies as are available in accordance with the law. Such an application shall be considered on its own merits by the competent court”, the court said.
Further, the apex court has stayed all further proceedings arising out of and emanating from FIRs and complaints except the one filed in Nagpur and the same has now been transferred to Mumbai.
A division bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah also directed that if a request is made by Goswami to the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai for providing adequate security at the residence of the petitioner or at the studio of Republic TV in Mumbai, such a request shall be expeditiously considered and, based on the threat perception, police protection shall be provided if considered appropriate and for the period during which the threat perception continues.
In addition, the court asked the petitioner to implead the complainants at whose behest, the First Information Reports or, as the case may be, the criminal complaints have been filed and also to amend the petition as to include an alternate prayer for the consolidation of all the FIRs or, as the case may be, criminal complaints about being investigated at one and the same place.
Goswami had approached the apex court yesterday seeking quashing of multiple FIRs against him in different states namely Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Jharkhand as well as in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir for the same cause of action.
Appearing for the petitioner, senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi submitted that the statements which had been attributed to the petitioner were based on a small part of the overall programme and that if the programme is viewed in its entirety, no offence has been made out under Sections 153, 153A, 153B, 295A, 298, 500, 504 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code 1860.
Appearing for the State of Maharashtra, senior advocate Kapil Sibal submitted that the offending part of the telecast related to an excerpt which commenced at 10.51 pm. Placing reliance on the excerpt, he urged that this amounted not only to an abuse of the freedom of speech and expression but implicated the offences which were complained of.
Further, he submitted that having regard to the settled principle of law, the Court ought not to restrain a proper investigation being conducted. At the same time, it was urged that should the petitioner move a prayer for the clubbing of the FIRs which have been filed in diverse jurisdictions, there would be no objection to the Court passing an order for a common investigation in the interests of justice.
Read the order here: Supreme Court order [April 24, 2020]