NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday granted protection against any "coercive steps" for three weeks to Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami in connection with FIRs lodged against him in several states for hate speech case.
The FIRs alleged defamatory statements that were made during his primetime debate on recent Palghar mob-lynching of three persons including two saints in Maharashtra. He received flak for his comments against Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the episode.
A bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah, in a hearing conducted through video conferencing, took note of the submissions of senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi and said that Goswami “shall be protected against any coercive steps” for the telecast of the alleged defamatory news programmes aired on the news channels.
The Bench further stayed action on other FIRs registered against him in States, including Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Telangana and Jammu and Kashmir.
The Bench said the the TV anchor can later file for anticipatory bail plea in connection with the FIRs after three weeks, while adding that he must cooperate with investigating agency.
It also allowed Goswami to club FIRs lodged against him.
Goswami had moved the Supreme Court late on Thursday night. In just a couple of hours, the apex court had listed the the plea for quashing the FIRs before Justice Chandrachud’s Bench. Amid the lockdown for COVID-19 pandemic, the court is convening only to hear “extremely urgent” cases.
In the hearing, which went on for an hour, Goswami was represented by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi.
The advocate justified the “extremely urgent circumstances” as several FIRs was registered against him by Congress party members in States ruled by the party or their political allies. He argued that the FIRs were in retaliation to his TV show episodes on Republic TV on April 16 and R. Bharat on April 21.
On the other side, senior advocate and Congress leader Kapil Sibal, for the Maharashtra government, countered saying remarks igniting communal violence cannot be protected as free speech, while adding that nothing prevents Congress members from filing complaints.
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