Supreme Court extends protection for Arnab Goswami, rejects CBI probe plea

Written by Ananthakrishnan G
| New Delhi |

Published: May 20, 2020 4:43:47 am

Mumbai: Cong leaders move HC against Arnab Goswami, Republic TV “The petitioner is a media journalist. The airing of views on television shows which he hosts is in the exercise of his fundamental right to speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a)”, the Bench mentioned.

“India’s freedoms will rest safe as long as journalists can speak truth to power without being chilled by a threat of reprisal” and “free citizens cannot exist when the news media is chained to adhere to one position,” the Supreme Court mentioned on Tuesday.

The courtroom confirmed its interim order quashing all however one FIR towards Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami over a TV present on April 21, whereby he questioned Congress president Sonia Gandhi over the lynching of two sadhus and their driver in Palghar in Maharashtra.

Ruling on a clutch of petitions, a Bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah mentioned “all other FIRs in respect of the same incident constitute a clear abuse of process and must be quashed”.

The SC mentioned Goswami might strategy the High Court to avail of additional treatments, and prolonged the safety from arrest for 3 extra weeks.

The courtroom mentioned that “Article 32 of the Constitution constitutes a recognition of the constitutional duty entrusted” in it “to protect the fundamental rights of citizens” and added that “the exercise of journalistic freedom lies at the core of speech and expression protected by Article 19(1)(a)”.

“The petitioner is a media journalist. The airing of views on television shows which he hosts is in the exercise of his fundamental right to speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a)”, the Bench mentioned.

The Bench, nonetheless, added that “the exercise of that fundamental right is not absolute and is answerable to the legal regime enacted with reference to the provisions of Article 19(2). But to allow a journalist to be subjected to multiple complaints and to the pursuit of remedies traversing multiple states and jurisdictions when faced with successive FIRs and complaints bearing the same foundation has a stifling effect on the exercise of that freedom”.

“This”, it mentioned “will effectively destroy the freedom of the citizen to know of the affairs of governance in the nation and the right of the journalist to ensure an informed society”.

The courtroom recalled Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari’s phrases that “questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question”.

The courtroom mentioned that any affordable restriction on basic rights “must comport with the proportionality standard, of which one component is that the measure adopted must be the least restrictive measure to effectively achieve the legitimate state aim”.

“Subjecting an individual to numerous proceedings arising in different jurisdictions on the basis of the same cause of action cannot be accepted as the least restrictive and effective method…”, it mentioned. The Bench flagged the truth that within the numerous complaints filed in relation to the April 21 incident “the language, content and sequencing of paragraphs and their numbering is identical”.

The courtroom turned down Goswami’s plea to quash a subsequent FIR in reference to one other TV present on April 29, concerning his feedback on the migrant commotion exterior Bandra station on April 14.
Goswami had sought switch of the probe to CBI stating he was interrogated for practically 12 hours, that the CFO of the channel was additionally questioned, and that irrelevant questions have been put to them. He additionally contended that since he had levelled allegations towards the state authorities’s failure to adequately probe the Palghar case, there was a battle of curiosity in permitting Mumbai Police to research the case.

But the courtroom mentioned that the “power” to switch an investigation to CBI is “extraordinary”, and is for use “sparingly…in exceptional circumstances”.

The Bench famous that it had earlier transferred the FIR concerning the April 21 present in Nagpur to Mumbai with Goswami’s consent, and added “the petitioner now seeks to pre-empt an investigation by the Mumbai Police. The basis on which the petitioner seeks to achieve this is untenable. An accused person does not have a choice in regard to the mode or manner in which the investigation should be carried out or in regard to the investigating agency”.

“The line of interrogation either of the petitioner or of the CFO cannot be controlled or dictated by the persons under investigation/interrogation… The contention of the petitioner that the length of the investigation or the nature of the questions addressed to him and the CFO during the interrogation must weigh in transferring the investigation cannot be accepted. The investigating agency is entitled to determine the nature of the questions and the period of questioning,” the courtroom mentioned.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had referred to a plea by the Mumbai Police looking for to restrain Goswami, and backed the request to switch the probe to CBI.

The SC dismissed the Mumbai Police’s plea, however added “we are unable to accede” that the plea would make it essential to switch the investigation to CBI.

“The investigating agency has placed on the record what it believes is an attempt by the petitioner to discredit the investigation by taking recourse to the social media and by utilising the news channels which he operates,” the Bench mentioned.

“Social media has become an overarching presence in society. To accept the tweets by the petitioner and the interview by the complainant as a justification to displace a lawfully constituted investigation agency of its jurisdiction and duty to investigate would have far-reaching consequences for the federal structure.”

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