THE Supreme Court of India on Tuesday refused to quash a First Information Report (FIR) lodged in Maharashtra against Arnab Goswami, Editor-In-Chief, Republic TV, for his alleged provocative speech in connection with the Palgarh lynching.
The court, however, quashed all other identical FIRs against Goswami in different States in connection with the Palgarh lynching except for the one lodged in Nagpur which stood transferred to Mumbai by the apex court earlier.
“No other FIR or, as the case may be, the complaint shall be initiated or pursued in any other forum in respect of the same cause of action emanating from the broadcast on 21 April 2020 by the petitioner on R Bharat. Any other FIRs or complaints in respect of the same cause of action emanating from the broadcast on 21 April 2020, other than the FIRs or complaints referred to in (v) above are also held to be not maintainable”, the court said.
A division bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah also rejected the plea by Arnab seeking transfer of probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). It, however, granted liberty to Goswami to pursue such remedies as are available in law under the CrPC before the competent forum.
“The transfer of an investigation to the CBI is not a matter of routine. The precedents of this Court emphasise that this is an “extraordinary power” to be used “sparingly” and “in exceptional circumstances”, the court said.
The court relied upon its ruling in Romila Thapar v Union of India, wherein it was held that “accused does not have a say in the matter of appointment of investigating agency”.
Further, the court added, “an accused person does not have a choice in regard to the mode or manner in which the investigation should be carried out or in regard to the investigating agency. The line of interrogation either of the petitioner or of the CFO cannot be controlled or dictated by the persons under investigation/interrogation”.
“The contention of the petitioner that the length of the investigation or the nature of the questions addressed to him and the CFO during the interrogation must weigh in transferring the investigation cannot be accepted. The investigating agency is entitled to determine the nature of the questions and the period of questioning”, the court held.
The protection granted to Arnab Goswami April 24, 2020 against coercive steps extended for a period of three weeks from today to enable him to pursue the remedies available in law.
The bench headed by Justice Chandrachud also refused to quash the May 2 FIR registered against Goswami for allegedly hurting religious sentiments by making derogatory remarks against a religious community during the broadcast on migrants gathered in Bandra on his channel Republic TV.
SC also rejected an application filed by Maharashtra police seeking direction to ‘insulate’ the investigation agency from any ‘pressure’, ‘threat’ or ‘coercion’ from Arnab Goswami. It left it open for the police to urge its submissions before the Competent court.
It asked Commissioner of Police, Mumbai to consider the request of Arnab Goswami for the provision of security at his residence and at the business establishment in Mumbai, in accordance with the law.
“Based on the threat perception, police protection may be provided if it is considered appropriate and for the period during which the threat perception continues”, the court added.
The Court also clarified that nothing contained its judgment should be construed as an expression of opinion on the merits of the allegations contained in the FIRs.