The Supreme Court on Friday granted Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami interim protection for three weeks and ruled that no coercive action will be taken against the journalist till then, Bar and Bench reported. Goswami can move an anticipatory bail application during the three weeks, it said.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah made the observations while hearing a petition filed by Goswami seeking no coercive action should be taken on the first information reports filed against him in various states for allegedly defaming Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
The court scheduled the matter to be heard again after eight weeks, and said any other cases lodged against Goswami shall also remain stayed until further orders.
In his petition, Goswami also invoked freedom of the press and said that the registration of FIRs and filing of such complaints against him is tantamount to muzzling of the media.
At least 16 complaints were filed against Goswami in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Chhattisgarh. He sought a stay on any action that may be taken against him, adding that the FIRs and complaints were filed across various states and the petitioner would be unable to be present in multiple courts and police stations in the matter.
The argument was upheld by the Supreme Court, which observed that the petitioner cannot be subjected to proceedings in different parts of the country. “Proceedings on all the FIRs except one filed in Nagpur, Maharashtra to be stayed till further orders,” it ruled. “The FIR filed in Sadar Police Station, Nagpur is to be transferred to NM Joshi Marg Police Station in Mumbai.”
Goswami had launched a full-blown attack on Gandhi and claimed that she had orchestrated the Palghar lynching in Maharashtra. Three Mumbai residents, who were on their way to Silvassa on April 16, were lynched by local residents in Gadakchinchale village of Palghar district on the suspicion that they were thieves. The men who were lynched were reportedly Hindu religious leaders.
The Republic TV anchor had questioned Gandhi’s silence on the incident and made some provocative allegations. “Would Sonia Gandhi have been quiet if Muslim preachers or Christian saints had been killed instead of Hindu sants?” Goswami had asked on his show. “She’s quiet today, but I think she feels happy that Hindu sants were killed in a state where Congress has a stake in the government. She will send a report to Italy about the fact that she is getting Hindu sants killed in Maharashtra.”
Earlier on Thursday, Goswami had accused the Congress of attacking him and his wife Samyabrata Ray when they were returning home from work. The Mumbai Police made arrests in connection with the attack.