The Supreme Court on Monday extended the interim protection granted to journalist Arnab Goswami till the bench passes an order, reported Bar and Bench. The court was hearing a plea filed by the Republic TV editor-in-chief in favour of quashing of first information reports filed against him for allegedly disturbing communal harmony and defaming Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
The court reserved its order, which is likely to be pronounced later this week. Goswami was first granted interim protection on April 24. “This protection will continue to be in operation till the pronouncement of the court’s order,” said the bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah.
The court said it will also consider the plea for transferring the investigation to an independent agency. The police’s claims that Goswami was resorting to pressure and threats would also be taken into account, the bench added.
The journalist’s first petition was in relation to the multiple FIRs registered against him in various states after he accused Congress chief Sonia Gandhi of orchestrating the Palghar lynching incident. 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.
On April 24, the court had given three weeks’ interim protection to Goswami while staying all but one FIR against him. The first information report by Congress minister Nitin Raut was initially filed in Nagpur, but the Supreme Court transferred the matter to Mumbai. Goswami was investigated by the Mumbai Police for over 12 hours in relation to the FIR.
During the hearing on Monday, senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for Goswami, pointed out that the various FIRs were identical and were all filed by members of the same political party. “This is a concerted attack by a political party against one journalist,” said Salve. “They want to teach me [Goswami] a lesson.”
In another FIR, Goswami has been accused of communalising the Bandra migrant incident of April 14. A large number of people had assembled at the station in the hope of returning home amidst the Covid-19 lockdown. The complainant, Irfan Abubakar Shaikh, secretary of Raza Educational Welfare Society, referred to a report aired on the channel on April 29. He said Goswami targeted a mosque in Bandra that had no link with the migrants protest.
Shaikh accused both the channel and Goswami of trying to spread hatred against the Muslim community, adding that the anchor “purposely highlighted the mosque”. The complainant also said the debate on the channel intended to blame the Muslim community for the spread of the novel coronavirus. The case against Goswami was filed on May 2 at the Pydhonie police station.
In his petition, Goswami said the FIR is “politically motivated” and that the Mumbai Police “harbours ill-will and malice” towards him. He sought protection from coercive action and quashing of the FIR.