New Delhi: Days after Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami was questioned by the Mumbai Police, the Maharashtra government has filed an application in the Supreme Court, demanding that orders be issued to “insulate” the investigating agency “from any pressure, threat or coercion” from Goswami, so that it can carry out a fair probe.
The application accuses Goswami of “publicly trying to malign the police and the manner of their investigation”, and of making “false and baseless allegations” against Mumbai’s police commissioner.
Goswami, the application states, has “clearly abused the journalistic freedom available to him under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution”, and has “indulged in a vicious propaganda against the police”.
Goswami had moved the Supreme Court after over 100 FIRs were filed against him across the country, accusing him of making “inflammatory statements” and defaming Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi.
On 24 April, the apex court granted him protection from arrest for three weeks, staying all FIRs against him, except for one in Nagpur. This FIR was ordered to be transferred to Mumbai, and is now being investigated by the Mumbai Police, along with the FIR filed by Goswami alleging that he was attacked in the city by two goons on a motorcycle on 23 April.
‘Licence to defame’
The application filed by the Maharashtra government now claims that Goswami is using the Supreme Court’s interim protection “as some kind of a licence to indulge in unwarranted sensationalism” and “to ridicule, denigrate and defame the police department and its officers and to dictate the course of investigations in the way and manner of his choice and also to cause subtle threats and intimidate the investigating agency”.
The government has, therefore, asserted that Goswami has “used, abused and misused” his position as a journalist and editor, and hence, the probe agency should be insulated from him.
It has also sought directions restraining him from “abusing” the interim protection granted to him by the court.
The application takes objection to several tweets posted by the Twitter account of Republic’s Hindi channel, Republic Bharat.
One of these was posted on 26 April, announcing that Goswami would subject himself to an investigation, and urged the police to show a sense of immediacy in investigating the FIR he filed as well.
The government’s application pointed out three tweets made by the handle while Goswami was being interrogated as well. These tweets said he had been questioned for over 11 hours, and claimed that the police were covering up the matter concerning the alleged attack on him.
These tweets, the application said, created an impression of the police being biased against Goswami. It also said the tweets portrayed that the police were covering up Goswami’s FIR against his attack, and were “unnecessarily” questioning him for several hours.
“The correct fact is that the police are also investigating the petitioner’s FIR and have not covered up the matter regarding the petitioner’s FIR,” the Maharashtra government asserted.
The application further claimed that Goswami carried his entourage of reporters and cameramen inside the police station, “where he virtually commanded the police officials to do certain things and act in a certain way as propounded by him”.
“Ever since the occurrence and registration of the case, the petitioner has made a media spectacle of the entire incident at every stage,” it added.
‘Terrorising’ investigating officers
The application also took note of a debate titled ‘Poochhta Hai Bharat’ on the Republic Bharat channel.
It alleged that Goswami made several “personal false statements” against Mumbai’s commissioner of police during this debate.
It said Goswami referred to the ‘IndiaBulls scam’ on his show, claiming that several police officers, including the commissioner, were involved in it, and that he was going to investigate and blow the lid off it.
The allegations, it said, were aimed at “browbeating, terrorising and intimidating the investigating officer(s)”.
“This appears to be aimed solely at browbeating the investigating officers by creating a fear psychosis that they would also face dire consequences and would be publicly ridiculed, if they proceed for investigations in the two FIRs, one lodged by the petitioner and one against him, against his dictates,” it added.
The application demanded: “It is also necessary that this Hon’ble Court may issue appropriate directions so that a balance is maintained between the rights of the petitioner as a citizens as well as a ‘senior journalist’ vis-a-vis the prerogative of the investigating agency to conduct investigations into the crime as an arm of the law, without any fear, threat or pressure.”