Mumbai: In a major respite for Arnab Goswami, anchor and editor of Republic TV, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday stayed the two FIRs filed against him for allegedly communalising the lynching of two Sadhus in Palghar and the mob gathering outside Bandra station.
A bench of Justices Ujjal Bhuyan and Riyaz Chagla said, "There is no material on record to show any prima facie case against the applicant (Goswami). Thus, as an interim order, the FIRs are stayed and the police is directed not to take any coercive action, till further orders."
The judges were dealing with a plea filed by Goswami through senior counsels Harish Salve and Milind Sathe, seeking to quash the two FIRs registered against him.
Goswami was accused of communalising the Palghar Sadhu lynching incident for claiming on a live show, that the duo was killed because they were Hindus. The other instance for which he was booked, was when he questioned (again on a live show) who called or asked the mob to gather outside a Masjid.
Citing his statements, senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Maharashtra government had argued that Goswami twisted the incidents only to cause communal disharmony. He argued that though a journalist has the right to freedom of speech and expression but s/he does not have the right to say that someone was killed because of their religion.
The arguments were vehemently opposed by Salve who said that his client was booked just because the he made certain statements against Congress President and that the party is in power in the state. He also argued that the FIRs were politically motivated.
At this, Sibal had pointed out that Goswami was indulging in communal propaganda, which is impermissible under the right to free speech.
Advocate Sujay Kantawala, one of the members from Goswami's legal team, welcomed the bench's order. "This is the victory for every one especially the media. The HC has upheld our right to free speech and expression. This order will ensure that no journalist or any other person is harassed for reporting facts. Especially because we can see so many instances of journalists being booked for their reporting," Kantawala told FPJ.