There has to be responsibility in reporting, CJI tells Arnab's counsel
New Delhi, October 26, 2020
Chief Justice of India S. A. Bobde on Monday made some sharp observations on the reporting pattern adopted by Republic TV, during the hearing of an appeal filed by the Maharashtra government challenging the Bombay High Court order staying the investigation against the channel's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami in connection with shows focusing on the Palghar lynching case.
A bench, headed by the Chief Justice, told senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Goswami: "You can be old-fashioned and report it differently. Frankly speaking, I cannot stand it. This has never been the level of public discourse."
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Maharashtra, asked the bench as to how the investigation could be stayed and also cited transcript of Goswami's programmes on which the FIRs were registered.
To this, the Chief Justice replied the problem is in the course of investigation, some authorities use unfair means and this is a purely intellectual and verbal matter.
FIRs were registered based on the allegations that Goswami's coverage of Palghar lynching case, which involved the death of two sadhus, and a migrant gathering in Mumbai's Bandra, had a communal colour.
The Chief Justice added that police can ask questions, even the statute says that, and the courts should not interfere, but it has to be done in a certain manner.
As Singhvi insisted that the top court should allow the investigation without coercive steps, the Chief Justice replied that while nobody is above the law, but some people are targeted with higher intensity.
Salve contended that there is an FIR filed against the entire editorial team of Republic TV, and people from the channel have been questioned for long hours.
The Chief Justice then told Salve that "keeping your client aside, the court agrees with the freedom of press, but it does not appreciate the submission that as a person from the media your client should not be questioned".
"We want a sense of assurance from you of responsibility," he said.
Salve replied the society is fragile and there must be some responsibility, but the court should not take the FIR on face value.
"There has to be responsibility in reporting. There are some areas one has to tread with caution," the Chief Justice said, adding that he can't stand it and this not kind of public discourse to have.
He then asked Salve to put on an affidavit what his client proposes to do and also asked the Maharashtra government to submit a list of FIRs filed against Goswami. After a detailed hearing, the top court adjourned the matter for two weeks.