Republic TV on Tuesday accused the Maharashtra government of subjecting it to a “witch hunt” after the Mumbai Police served a show-cause notice to its Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami for his coverage of the Palghar lynching case and the Bandra migrants protest in April. The notice, sent to Goswami on Saturday, asked why he should not be made to sign a bond of good behaviour, reported The Indian Express.

The matter is related to two first information reports registered earlier this year against the journalist. Goswami was accused of showing content on his channel that may instigate enmity between different communities, the police had said.

In a statement on Tuesday, the news channel called the notice illegal since the Supreme Court and the Bombay High Court had stayed action against Goswami.

“The show-cause notice issued to Arnab Goswami reeks of an openly spiteful and deeply-motivated witch hunt by the state government of Maharashtra against a free press that holds the political dispensation accountable,” the news channel said in a statement. “The agenda of the Mumbai Police is crystal clear given the fact that their show-cause notice stands in complete violation of the orders of the courts of law.”

The TV channel accused the police and the state government of pursuing a “malicious agenda” against journalists. The organisation said that it will take legal action.

The Mumbai Police had sent a notice to Goswami under section 108 of the Code of Criminal Procedure on October 10, according to the Hindustan Times. The police asked Goswami why a chapter proceeding should not be initiated against him.

Assistant Commissioner of Police (Worli division) Sudhir Jambavdekar asked Goswami to appear before him on Friday.

In June, the Bombay High Court had granted interim relief from arrest to Goswami and stayed two first information reports filed against him for alleged communal coverage of Palghar lynching case and the gathering of migrant workers outside the Bandra station. A division bench of Ujjal Bhuyan and Riyaz Chagla had said “prima facie no case was made out” against Goswami.

In April, the Supreme Court had also ordered that no coercive action can be taken against him for three weeks.

The FIRs

Complaints were filed against the Republic TV founder after he accused Congress president Sonia Gandhi of orchestrating 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. Two of the men were sadhus.

The Republic TV anchor had questioned Gandhi’s silence on the incident and made several 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.

Meanwhile, the second FIR was filed after Irfan Abubakar Shaikh, secretary of Raza Educational Welfare Society, referred to a report aired on the channel on April 29. A large number of people had crowded at the Bandra station in the hope of returning home during the nationwide lockdown, which was imposed in the last week of March to rein in the coronavirus pandemic. The complainant said Goswami made multiple communal and inflammatory statements on air about the gathering.