High Court refuses to restrain Republic TV and Arnab Goswami on Sunanda Pushkar coverage

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The Delhi High Court has refused to restrain Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami and his channel from broadcasting programmes and debates on the death of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar. Justice Manmohan, who delivered a 61-page judgement, however, said that the coverage on Sunanda Pushkar’s death has to be “tempered and balanced”.

Arnab Goswami

The judgement also said that the Congress MP from Kerala had a “right to silence” under the Constitution and “no person can be compelled to give testimony or answer questions which may incriminate him”. It said that Republic TV must give Tharoor a written notice, by electronic mode, before running any story on Pushkar’s death.

The order said, “If the plaintiff (Tharoor) refuses or does not reply within a reasonable time, he will not be compelled to speak and the story will be aired with the disclosure that he has refused to speak to the defendants (TV channel and Goswami).”

The court disposed of three applications filed by Tharoor seeking to restrain the TV channel and Goswami from airing news regarding his wife’s death till the pendency of the proceedings before the trial court here, reported PTI.

He has also sought a direction to the journalist and the news channel that they should not mention the expression “murder of Sunanda Pushkar” anywhere, as it is yet to to established by a competent court that her death was “murder” to ensure that the trial is not prejudiced.

The applications were filed in Tharoor’s Rs two crore defamation suit against Goswami and the channel for allegedly making defamatory remarks against him while airing news relating to the mysterious death of his wife. The pending suit is listed for further proceedings before the Joint Registrar on January 18 next year.

Goswami and the channel had contended that they have been cautious and have never imputed that the Congress leader is guilty in the case.

Pushkar was found dead in a suite of a five-star hotel in south Delhi on the night of January 17, 2014 under mysterious circumstances.

Dealing with Tharoor’s applications which was opposed by the TV channel, Justice Manmohan discussed domestic and foreign laws and judgements to conclude that in the present case, an interlocutory injunction cannot be granted at this prima facie stage to restrain publication.

“Keeping in view the aforesaid mandate of law and the prima facie findings, this court is of the opinion that in the present case the defendants have the right to air their stories and the same cannot be curbed, but it has to be tempered and balanced,” the court said.

It also observed that an individual affected by the story must be given an option to give his version, but he cannot be compelled to speak if he does not want to.

“The culture of thrusting a microphone in the face of a person needs to be deprecated,” it said.

The judge also reminded Goswami and his channel the sense of responsibility attached the profession of journalism.

He said, “Press cannot convict anyone or insinuate that he/she is guilty or make any other unsubstantiated claims. Press has to exercise care and caution while reporting about matters under investigation or pending trial.”

The judgement, however, refrained from saying anything more as the counsel for the journalist and the news channel have assured the court that in future they would exercise restraint as well as “bring down the rhetoric”.

“Even according to senior counsel for Tharoor, subsequent to the said statement the previous vitriolic attack was missing. The statement made by (the counsel for Goswami and the TV channel) is accepted by this court and defendants are held bound by the same,” it noted in its order.

 

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