The Bombay High Court on Tuesday refused to grant exemption from appearing before police to Republic TV Editor-In-Chief Arnab Goswami while hearing a petition filed by him seeking quashing of two FIRs filed in Nagpur and Mumbai against him and the channel.
Arnab sought exemption from appearing before the police for interrogation which was denied; but the Court has granted Goswami protection from arrest.
A division bench of Ujjal Bhuyan and Justice Riyaz Chagla heard the writ petition filed by Arnab. The Supreme Court had on May 19 refused to allow Arnab's petition seeking quashing of FIRs and transfer of probe against him to CBI.
At the outset, Arnab's lawyer Madhavi Doshi of Phoenix Legal sought passover for some time as Senior Counsel Harish Salve was unable to join the hearing via video conferencing at that time. So the matter was kept back and a couple of hours later Salve appeared.
Salve read from the two FIRs filed against Arnab in Maharashtra; one was filed by State Energy Minister and Congress Leader Nitin Raut in Nagpur on Arnab's allegedly inflammatory statements made during a show on the Palghar mob lynching incident and the second FIR was regarding the alleged communalization of the incident of crowd gathering outside Bandra station.
After going through the FIRs, Salve said that identical FIRs have been filed across India and referring to paras 31 and 33 of the Supreme Court's order dated May 19, he submitted that the Supreme Court has already held that FIRs in multiple states on the same incident is unsustainable.
Arnab Goswami was booked under Sections 153, 153 A, 153 B, 295 A, 298, 500, 504, 505(2), 506, 120 B and 117 of IPC. Salve perused through Section 153 B and submitted that no offence is made out under the aforesaid section.
As for allegations of Arnab making criminal defamatory statements against Congress President Sonia Gandhi during his show on Republic TV, Salve said that it was criticism against Sonia Gandhi by a journalist which is covered under Freedom of Expression. Multiple FIRs in different states attacking Arnab and his wife have been filed. Moreover, Mumbai police are committing harassment in the guise of interrogation, Salve said.
On the other hand, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal appeared for the State of Maharashtra. He insisted on Arnab appearing before the police. But Salve stated that his client should be exempted from appearing before Pydhonie police station with regard to the second FIR as the said police station lies in a containment zone.
To this Sibal replied-
"You can come to NM Joshi police station if Pydhonie is under a containment zone."
Then the judges asked Salve- "Why can't Mr.Goswami appear tomorrow?"
However, Salve continued to argue for deferring the interrogation scheduled for tomorrow.
"Why's he afraid of facing the investigation officer? He goes to his studio every day. Is he a special person that he will not be interrogated?" Sibal contended.
Thus, Court directed Arnab to appear before NM Joshi police station tomorrow and granted him interim protection from arrest. The next date of hearing in the matter is June 12.
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