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Judge points out: “You are saying that he (Tharoor) is running from you and not coming for an interview. He has a right to remain silent. You can’t call him criminal.”

The Delhi High Court on May 29 issued summons to Republic TV editor Arnab Goswami for using unacceptable language and epithets against Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, regarding the case of the death of his wife Sunanda Pushkar. The court also asked Goswami’s counsel to tell Goswami to “cut the rhetoric” and stick to facts.

Tharoor has filed Rs two crore civil defamation suit against Goswami and Republic TV.

The petitioner’s junior counsel started the argument, saying: “The Republic channel is nothing but a banana republic and runs its own kangaroo court. Mr Goswami has been reprimanded more than once by the judicial and quasi-judicial authorities, that he is overstepping the limits as a journalist. Republic TV has clearly an agenda and within that agenda they have started airing a show on the death of Sunanda Pushkar for 3-5 hours daily.”

The junior counsel submitted a transcript of alleged defamatory statements made by Goswami to the court of Justice Manmohan.

Tharoor’s counsel, senior advocate Salman Khurshid, took over and said: “My client has lost his wife, a valuable possession. How can someone say that I had something to do with it when I am not even an accused? And even if I am an accused, can someone pass a judgment about me, saying that I am a murderer? There is a right to fair trial for the accused and the court has to protect the accused. In US and UK, trials can be proved to be mistrials just because there was a media trial. They say that this man should be arrested now. How tainted and one-sided can reportage be?

Justice Manmohan said: “But we can’t curb their right to investigate. There is no chargesheet for three and-a-half years.”

The petitioner’s counsel said that it should be balanced and not defamatory. Khurshid said: “I don’t have to argue anything. Just read the statements that have been made. The police says that the investigation is continuing, there are some questions. Let them ask the remaining questions, let the police do their job. Please don’t answer the questions without any responsibility.

“Everybody must bow to the lordship’s judgment, but not to the media trial. Look at the response that he gets after doing the programme. The people are applauding him. Leave alone my client’s reputation, think about the pain it causes him,” Khurshid said.

Khurshid read from the paper the defamatory statements made by Goswami. “I am not asking for a gag order, I need protection in all fairness. An example needs to be set. If they can justify, let them justify in court, prove it in court and I will face the trial. But I know they don’t have a shred of evidence. If this is allowed, nobody is safe in this country.”

Senior advocate Sandeep Sethi, on caveat for the respondents, said: “We will justify each and every statement that has been made. The second point is that it’s been three and a half years and no chargesheet has been filed. This matter has been in the media for last three and a half years. What has been said by my client is response to the plaintiff’s statement. We are just putting hard facts.”

Justice Manmohan said: “You can put hard facts and evidence, but you can’t resort to name calling. You are saying that he is running from you and not coming for an interview. He has a right to remain silent.

“You can’t call him criminal. He doesn’t understand Anglo-Saxon law as the plaintiff has a right to remain silent. Facts you can put, but you can’t say a person is a criminal. You are so sensitive that if someone tweets about you, you instantly reply to that. You can’t use this kind of language.”

Sethi said: “We comply with NBA guidelines.” He also said that he will advise his client to cut the rhetoric “as suggested by your lordship.”

The court issued summons and four weeks for filing the written submission and then two weeks for rejoinder.

The matter was listed for August 16.

India Legal Bureau

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