Mumbai News

Bombay HC suspends FIRs against Arnab Goswami, says ‘prima facie no case’ – Hindustan Times

The Bombay high court (HC) has suspended the two first information reports (FIRs) filed at Pydhonie and NM Joshi Marg police stations against Republic TV’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami while holding prima facie that there is no case and offences against the prime-time anchor that needed coercive action.

A two-member division bench of the HC, comprising Justices Ujjal Bhuyan and Riyaz Chagla, while pronouncing the order in the petition filed by Goswami for quashing of the FIRs against him for allegedly giving a communal spin on his prime-time shows on the Palghar lynching of two Hindu seers on April 16 and the gathering of protesting migrants outside the Bandra railway station in mid-April amid the nationwide lockdown restrictions that were enforced to contain the spread of the raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak.

While arguing for Goswami, senior counsel Harish Salve and Milind Sathe had submitted that the journalist had a right to report on communal incidents and Goswami had done that in both the cases he was accused of.

The senior advocates submitted that invoking Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, and language) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against Goswami for criticising Congress party president Sonia Gandhi was malicious and was against his right to freedom of expression.

Salve had further submitted that the FIRs against Goswami were politically motivated and was an attempt to silence his criticism of the Maharashtra government in both the incidents.

However, senior counsels Kapil Sibal and Raja Thakare, who had appeared on behalf of the Maharashtra government, opposed Salve’s claims and had said that Goswami’s statement on the show had hurt the sentiments of the people and a detailed investigation was required in these cases.

On June 12, the HC had reserved its order and had said that no coercive action needed to be taken against Goswami, as prime facie there was neither any case nor offences disclosed against him.

The court had further observed that there was nothing to show that Goswami had tried to cause public disharmony.

Earlier, Goswami was summoned to Pydhonie police station on June 10 on the basis of a complaint by Irfan Abubakar Shaikh, secretary, Raza Education Welfare Society.

Sheikh had alleged in his FIR that Goswami tried to create hatred against the Muslim community and targeted a Bandra-based mosque that had no links to a protest by stranded migrant workers, who wanted to go back to their native places on April 14, when lockdown 1:0 were slated to be lifted.

“The mosque near the Bandra railway station is not linked to the stranded migrant workers’ protest. The workers had only gathered in an open space near the mosque. But Goswami deliberately highlighted the mosque on his show on April 29 to create communal disturbances in Mumbai,” Shaikh had alleged.

“The raging debate on the Republic TV was aimed at blaming the Muslim community for spreading Covid-19 in Mumbai. Earlier, too, he made hate-filled comments, targeting the community,” he had further alleged.

The FIR was registered under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, and language), 295A (deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any citizen) 500 (defamation), 505 (2) (spreading rumour or alarming news with intent to create or promote feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities), and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.

Lawyers from Phoenix Legal, who is representing Goswami in the cases, couldn’t be contacted, despite HT’s attempts.