In a huge interim relief to Arnab Goswami, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday stayed all FIRs filed against the Republic TV founder for using his broadcast to promote communal disharmony. This came weeks after the controversial anchor faced massive criticism from FIR actress Kavita Kaushik, Mulk director Anubhav Sinha and Saif Ali Khan’s former co-star Kubbra Sait.
A bench of Justices Ujjal Bhuyan and Riyaz Chagla said that no prima facie case was made out against Goswami. The bench had reserved their order last month. The matter had come for hearing in the Bombay High Court last month.
While Goswami was being represented by senior lawyer Harish Salve, Kapil Sibal had argued for the Maharashtra government.
Goswami is accused of broadcasting two TV programmes on his channel allegedly to incite communal hatred against Muslims. In his first broadcast on the tragic lynchings of three people in Maharashtra’s Palghar, the pro-BJP anchor had made a desperate attempt to add a dangerous communal twist.
In another broadcast on the impromptu gathering of migrant workers outside the Bandra railway station during the nationwide lockdown, Goswami had made a desperate attempt to highlight the presence of a mosque even though the Muslims’ place of worship had no relevance to the story.
The Bombay High Court said on the second FIR, “Seventy years into our republic we cannot be seen to be skating on thin ice so much so that mere mention of a place of worship will lead to animosity or hatred amongst religious communities causing upheaval and conflagration on the streets. Subscribing to such a view would stifle all legitimate discussions and debates in the public domain.”
The first FIR was filed in NM Joshi Marg Police station, where Goswami was grilled for more than 12 hours along with his Chief Financial Officer.
The court said in its order, “Accordingly and in the light of the above, the following orders are passed:
(1) This petition is admitted for hearing;
(2) Since all the parties are represented, issuance of notice stands obviated. However, office of the Attorney General of India be notified as regards challenge to vires of sections 153A and 153B(1) IPC;
(3) All further proceedings in FIR No.164 of 2020 before the N. M. Joshi Marg Police Station, Mumbai and FIR No.137 of 2020 before the
Pydhonie Police Station, Mumbai shall remain suspended; and
(4) Interim order passed on 09.06.2020 to the effect that no coercive steps shall be taken against the petitioner vis-a-vis the above two FIRs shall continue till disposal of this petition.”
Earlier, several celebrities including FIR actress Kavita Kaushik, filmmaker Anubhav Sinha and actress Kubbra Sait had slammed Goswami for his shenanigans in the recent days leading to his interrogation by the Mumbai Police.