A detailed timeline of Arnab Goswami's journey 'From newsroom to courtroom'


SYNOPSIS:

  1. INTRODUCTION:
    1. This article gives a detailed timeline in the recent events related to Media Professional Arnab Goswami.
    2. Goswami has been accused of “inciting communal violence” and “defaming Sonia Gandhi”.
    3. Goswami was attacked in car with his wife by two men. Black paint was thrown on his car.
    4. He claimed that Indian Congress leader Sonia Gandhi was behind such an action.
    5. Complaints for 16 FIRs from various states in India were filed.
    6. Goswami moved to the Apex Court asking that no coercive action be taken against him.
    7. Supreme Court granted Goswami protection for three weeks.
  2. ARGUMETS BY PETITIONERS:
    1. The petition was filed by Advocate on Record Pragya Baghel and Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi.
    2. It was argued that such FIRs are a way to “muzzle the press”.
    3. Argued that a case of defamation can only be filed by a person who was defamed
    4. It was stated that Goswami only wanted to highlight that sadhus were being lynched in the presence of policemen and question the Congress’ silence on the issue.
  3. ARGUMENTS BY DEFENDANTS:
    1.  Senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Vivek Tankha and Manish Singhvi appeared for the Congress-ruled states during the hearing
    2. Defendants asserted that during the debates in his shows, Goswami was “creating communal violence” by such statements and by pitting Hindus against the minority.
    3. It was also argued inter aliathat this was a case of “misuse of broadcasting license”.
  4. CONCLUSION:
    1. Cases of attacks against media professionals are not new in India.
    2. In several countries media is considered as a pillar of democracy along with Legislature, Executive and Judiciary.
    3. An independent media has the capability of delivering news without the fear of any repercussions and this is significantly threatened if their freedom of speech and expression is threatened.
    4. Media also has the duty of communicating the information honestly and without any fabrication.

INTRODUCTION:

Mr. Arnab Goswami, who is Editor-in-chief of Republic TV, had filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking that no coercive action be taken against him with regards to the multiple FIRs which were filed against him all through the country for allegedly defaming Congress President Sonia Gandhi and spreading communal violence.

The whole story began a few days ago when Goswami was conducting hisfamous (or infamous) show where he made a few comments in relation to the Indian National Congress. This was followed by a chain of complaints to lodge FIR against him. One of the first FIRs to be registered against him came from Raipur, Chhattisgarh. Two FIRs were filed out of which one of them was related to inciting violence and communal hatred over the Palghar lynching and the other was for spreading misinformation and fake news related to COVID-19 through his TV channel. These FIRs have been registered under sections 153A (promoting enmity), 295 A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class) and 505(2) (circulation of rumors) of the Indian Penal Code,1860 (IPC). The other request of FIR was registered in Nagpur, Maharashtra. The person filing the complaint had based his allegations on the debate he conducted on Goswami’s show where he had made certain comments related Congress leader Sonia Gandhi. Spokesperson of the Indian Youth Congress Atul Londhe has also filed a complaint for FIR against Arnab Goswami.Another representation to the police for FIR against Goswami was made in Jharkhand by Youth Congress leader, Kumar Raja.Another complaint seeking FIR in Jharkhand was made by Mahagama MLA Dipika Pandey Singh.[1] She claimed that questioning the Congress leader in such a way would amount to defamatory act on Mr. Goswami’s part.

But the story does not end here. In the wee hours of 23rd of April, Goswami was attacked when he was in his car. The attackers were later recognized as Pratik Kumar Shamsunder Mishra and Arun DilipBorade, who were on a motorcycle, intercepted Goswami’s car when he was on his way home from work shortly after midnight. Goswami was accompanied with his wife. The TV Anchor was the one driving and after he refused to roll his windows down, the attackers threw black paint on the vehicle. The accused have been identified as office-bearers of the Youth Congress in the Sion-Koliwada Assembly constituency. Goswami then went on to state that he suspected that “the attack was orchestrated by Sonia Gandhi and the Congress leadership and that he and his wife would not cow down by this cowardly attack which cannot have happened without the go ahead by Sonia Gandhi."

Following such allegations, more FIRs were filed. Tamil Nadu Youth Congress President, Mansoor had written to the Chennai Commissioner of Police seeking an immediate registration of FIR against Goswami. He said that the allegations by the Republic TV head had damaged the reputation of Sonia Gandhi and that it would have an “all India impact.”Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee President Ajay Kumar Lallu too wrote a complaint to the Lucknow police against Goswami on similar grounds.General Secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir Youth Congress, Madasar Choudhary, alsowrote a complaint to the Poonch police station seeking registration of FIR against Goswami for the allegedly defamatory comments made by the journalist.

Most of the FIRs had alleged that Goswami was trying to incite communal violence by way of debates on his TV channels.

Following these strings of allegations and FIRs, Goswami moved to the Supreme Court. He sought an ex parte stay on any action that may be taken against him pursuant to the FIRs. The petition was filed by Advocate on Record Pragya Baghel and Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi.

PETITIONER’S ARGUMENTS:

The petitioners argued that FIRs filed against Goswami on the grounds of defamation are just a way to “muzzle the press”. Mukul Rohatgi, on behalf of the petitioner, had also argued that a case of defamation can only be filed by a person who was defamed. The Senior Counsel also contended that Goswami only wanted to highlight that sadhus were being lynched in the presence of policemenand question the Congress’ silence on the issue. In his petition, Goswami had demanded that all the FIRs be quashed as they were violative of fundamental rights under Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21 which states Right to freedom of speech and expression and Right to Life, respectively.

Goswami also claimed that these complaints are part of a “well-coordinated and malicious campaign by the Congress and its members” and asserted, “The Complaints and the FIRs are false, vindictive, frivolous, malicious, precipitated with malice, untenable in law and have been filed with mala-fide intent by the Congress activists to coerce, harass and intimidate the Petitioner in order to muzzle the media and in particular the Petitioner, from carrying these news reports and conducting investigative journalism to bring the truth before the public.” He further stated that he, through his show and TV Channel, had always tried to “foster communal harmony, especially in the present critical time of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

The News show host had a sought a direction to the Union Government to provide “adequate safety and security” to him, his family members and his colleagues at Republic TV at various locations in the country.

ARGUMENTS BY DEFENDANTS:

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Vivek Tankha and Manish Singhvi appeared for the Congress-ruled states during the hearing.The defendants asserted that during the debates in his shows, Goswami was “creating communal violence”by such statements and by pitting Hindus against the minority.Counsel appearing for defendants also questioned the filing of the petition under Article 32 of the Constitution and submitted that FIR cannot be quashed at this stage and that investigation must be allowed.

An interesting event during the arguments that occurred was when Mr. Sibalasked if Rahul Gandhi can appear in a defamation case, why cannot Goswami.“Is Arnab Goswami a special privileged person?… If Congress people have filed FIRs, then what is the problem with this? Don’t BJP people file FIRs?”

Further it was argued by Senior Advocate Vivek Tankha who appeared for Chhattisgarh, that this was a case of “misuse of broadcasting license”. He protested the grant of protection to Goswami, submitting that it is “people like him who should be stopped from saying things to protect the integrity of the country”. When such arguments were raised by him about restraining Goswami from making such statements, Justice Chandrachud expressed his disinclination towards placing curbs on the media.

TIMELINE:

  1. Arnab Goswami makes certain comments in relation to the Palghar incident in Maharashtra and INC leader Mrs. Sonia Gandhi.
  2. Several FIRs are filing against him on the grounds of ‘inciting communal violence”
  3. In the wee hours of 23rd April, Goswami and his wife are attacked by two men on a motorcycle who threw black paint on his car.
  4. Later they were nabbed.
  5. Goswami claims that this attack was orchestrated by Sonia Gandhi and files an FIR.
  6. This is followed by more FIRs and this makes a total of 16 FIRs.
  7. Goswami moves to the Supreme Court. His petition under Article 32 seeks that no coercive action be taken on FIRs against him.
  8. On 24th April, the Apex Court begins the hearing of the petition by Goswami.
  9. The Supreme Court granted Goswami three-weeks’ protection from arrest in relation to the FIRs.

CONCLUSION:

Cases of attacks against media professionals are not new in India. With a country as diverse as India, where diversity can be seen not just on the map but also in political parties, it is very easy for sentiments of certain groups to get hurt. In several countriesmedia is considered as a pillar of democracy along with Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. This goes on to show that independence of Media is very necessary and crucial in a democracy. An independent media has the capability of delivering news without the fear of any repercussions and this is significantly threatened if their freedom of speech and expression is threatened. While there shall be certain restrictions as under Article 19(2), these restrictions should not be unreasonable and arbitrary. Media personnel should have the freedom just as any other citizens.

What was said by Arnab Goswami in the debate that day may or many not be defamatory but many argue that he should not have been met with violence for his views. That being said, media also has the duty of communicating the information honestly and without any fabrication. Hence, it can be said that this is a two-way deal where the media should spread false information and in return their freedom of speech and expression shall not be threatened.

[1]https://www.barandbench.com/news/16-complaints-so-far-in-congress-ruled-states-for-fir-against-arnab-goswami-for-defaming-sonia-gandhi-read-complaints

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