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New Delhi, April 24, 2020
The Supreme Court on Friday granted three weeks protection from arrest to Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami in connection with the multiple FIRs against him in various states for alleged hate speeches and for defamation of Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
A bench headed by Justice D. Y. Chandrachud and comprising Justice M. R. Shah observed there should be no restraint on the media. "I am averse to imposing restrictions on media," said Justice Chandrachud making an oral observation.
The apex court ordered transfer of case registered at Nagpur to Mumbai where investigations will continue in the case against Goswami, and probe in all other cases and complaints has been stayed. Also, there would be no investigation into fresh FIRs arising out of the April 21 show, and asked senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Goswami, to club all FIRs and complaints, and bring them on record.
Goswami, in the petition, urged the top court that no coercive measures should be taken on FIRs registered against him in Maharashtra, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh and union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. He contended that action against him is an attempt to curb free speech and the Freedom of Press under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution.
Senior advocate Vivek Tankha, representing Chhattisgarh government, urged the court to issue directions asking for a restraint order on Goswami from making such statements. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Maharashtra government, suggested the Nagpur FIR could be transferred to Mumbai. The court observed that it intends to protect the petitioner from arrest for a period of two weeks from today and permit him to move anticipatory bail application before the trial court or the High Court.
Sibal contended that the court must clarify that its order will have no bearing on the merits of the application.
The bench replied that Goswami cannot be subjected to proceedings in different parts of the country. The court will conduct further hearing on the matter after 8 weeks. The top court has also asked the Mumbai police to give protection to Republic TV office and the petitioner.