New Delhi (ILNS): The Supreme Court today told Republic TV Editor Arnab Goswami: “We are concerned about peace and harmony of the society. Nobody is immune from being questioned. We are not going to grant such immunity to anybody. We want an assurance of some sense and sensibility from you (Goswami).” The bench, headed by Chief Justice S. A. Bobde, was hearing a plea about statements made by Goswami against Congress President Sonia Gandhi and for ‘communalising’ a gathering of migrant workers in Mumbai’s Bandra.
The court asked Senior Counsel Harish Salve, appearing for Goswami, to file an affidavit for submissions in the matter of two FIRS’s filed against Goswami.
The bench, comprising Chief Justice S. A. Bobde and Justices D. Y. Chandrachud and L. Nageswara Rao, was hearing the appeal filed by the state of Maharashtra against the Bombay High Court order which had stayed two FIRs filed against Goswami for allegedly passing derogatory remarks against Gandhi and making “inflammatory statements” during discussions on the Palghar lynching incident on his channel on April 16.
During the course of today’s hearing Senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the state of Maharashtra, submitted that in his opinion nobody irrespective of religion, race, colour, sex has the right to publish the things which Goswami had published.
The Chief Justice, however, said that the matter before the bench was an intellectual matter, something which had been uttered by the journalist for which there was no need for a detailed inquiry. However, if there is some way where justice can be served by allowing the investigation to go on and ensuring that no corrupt practices are adopted and the purpose would be served, he would be okay.
Singhvi suggested certain measures to allow free and fair investigation to which the bench said that it would consider the suggestions.
Salve said Goswami had been interrogated for 17 hours. He said: “This is a big joke going on in the state. Somebody is saying that he will send his muscle power.”
The Chief Justice said sometimes it is possible that even after a long investigation a question appears to the police that is crucial in the case.
Salve pointed at the nature of offence and submitted: “Society is fragile and certain things should not be said, but the case is not a fit one for 153(A) of IPC.”
The CJI reminded Salve about the statements made by him and said:
“That there are certain speeches which have been read in the court and you cannot ignore them. This has never been a part of our public discourse and I don’t approve of it.”
The High Court of Bombay, while staying the two FIRs registered against Goswami, had said: “We cannot have the spectacle of a Damocles’ Sword hanging over the head of a journalist while conducting a public debate.”
The court had also said that no coercive steps will be taken against Goswami until his petition against the two FIRs is finally disposed of.