Saint Mob Lynching Telecast: Arnab Goswami granted by three weeks interim protection from the arrest

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The saint mob lynching has now clutched a new tumultuous form, in Arnab Goswami Case. Over 16 requests for FIRs have been lodged against Arnab Goswami on April 21 for “inciting communal hatred”, and in some cases for defaming Congress leader Sonia Gandhi. The case initiates when Arnab Goswami allegedly tried to communalize the Palghar mob lynching and made defamatory statements against Sonia Gandhi. It was after this program that aired on April 21 that a number of police complaints were filed against Goswami in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Telangana, and J&K. Soon Goswami has also lodged a complaint against two motorbikers who allegedly attacked his car on April 22 in Mumbai and abused and shouted at him and his wife. The attackers later threw ink on his car. Arnab clearly condemned that this attack is orchestrated under Sonia Gandhi by Youth Congress members and lodged FIR in Mumbai. The Press Council of India takes moto cognizance of the alleged attack on Editor-cum-Anchor of Republic TV news channel, Arnab Goswami. The PCI clearly mentioned that violence is not the answer even against bad journalism, and is distressed to know that Arnab Goswami was attacked. The Press Council also directed the Chief Secretary and Commissioner of Police, Mumbai to submit a report on the alleged case.

Arnab Goswami then moves to Supreme Court praying no coercive action should be taken against him in FIRs lodged against him.   Learned Counsel Mukul Rastogi argued in the court that Arnab Goswami deals with questions of public interest and that the anchor questioned the inaction of police in light of the Palghar mob lynching incident where 101 unruly mobs attacked saffron Sadhu even before police and clarified that there was no religious shape given to this incident by petitioner only he asked some questions on the silence born by Congress President on the killing of Sages. Later Senior Advocate Mukul Rastogi a case of defamation can be filed only by the person aggrieved and not by someone else.  The former AG also stated that a murderous attack on Goswami is an assault on Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, and said that the idea behind the filing of multiple FIRs is to muzzle the freedom of the press. He went on to cite precedents to show that there can be no FIR in a case of defamation, nor can there be multiple FIRs with the same cause of action. Therefore petitioner requested protection with respect to these FIRs as any other FIRs arising out of TV program of April 21.

On the counter, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for the State of Maharashtra read out the defamatory statements and said if Goswami's statements fall within the purview of free speech, there cannot be Article 32 petitions on "fake free speech and tried to give religious shape to Palghar incident and incited communal tension in the society. Kapil Sibal further stated that it is a settled position that once an FIR is lodged, and if on its reading, an offense is made out, then it cannot be quashed. Advocate Manish Singhvi appearing for the State of Rajasthan said that Section 153A & 153B are non-bailable offenses and the case has been lodged against Arnab under these provisions. Senior Advocate Vivek Tankha appearing for the State of Chhattisgarh argued that this is a case of misusing the channel's broadcasting license and promoting "communal disharmony".

Vivek Tankha prayed that if protection is granted now, it may be seen as an encouragement to inching towards another division of the country". Over this Rastogi added that Goswami only spoke about the lynching of Sadhus, and had said that he would take Congress's silence on the issue as complicity.

After hearing over the issue bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah granted protection to the petitioner for a period of three weeks, so that he may move the appropriate forum for anticipatory bail said that Goswami cannot be subjected to proceedings in different parts of the country, also court noted no coercive action should be taken against him during the time being. The court also stated Any other FIRs filed in relation to the issue shall also be stayed until further orders and transferred the FIR filed in Nagpur to Mumbai, and the investigation on the same will be carried out along with the alleged murderous attack on the petitioner. Hence the bench directed the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai to give protection to the Republic TV Office and the Petitioner.