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SC gives Arnab Goswami three weeks’ protection from arrest, stays all FIRs except one

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The Supreme Court in New Delhi| Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
The Supreme Court in New Delhi | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint


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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday provided protection from arrest for three weeks to journalist and Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, who had approached the Supreme Court challenging the filing of multiple FIRs against him across the country that accused him of making “inflammatory statements” and defaming Sonia Gandhi.

The bench comprising Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice M.R. Shah clarified that all allegations against Goswami will be investigated through one FIR in Mumbai. Goswami will have to file an anticipatory bail plea within three weeks for continued protection from arrest.

Multiple FIRs were filed against Goswami in several states, including Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Telangana, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, accusing him of using derogatory language against Sonia Gandhi and making “inflammatory statements” during discussions on the Palghar incident, in which three persons including two sadhus were lynched, on his channel.

The court stayed all FIRs against him, except for one in Nagpur, which will be transferred to Mumbai. Any FIR filed against him, “which arose out of a similar cause of action”, after this judgment will also remain stayed until further orders.

The top court asked the Mumbai Commissioner of Police to give protection to Goswami and his Republic TV office.

The court issued notice to all the states where the FIRs were lodged, and directed Goswami to amend his petition suitably, so he can seek clubbing of all FIRs against him.


Also read: If Uddhav Thackeray bows before Arnab Goswami’s dare, he will only weaken himself before BJP


‘Idea behind FIRs is to muzzle the press’

Arguing for Goswami, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi referred to the FIRs filed against him for defaming Sonia Gandhi and said the idea behind these is to “muzzle the press”.

Rohatgi also referred to the 2016 Supreme Court judgment in a case involving BJP leader Subramanian Swamy to submit that a defamation complaint can only be filed by the person who was defamed.

Rohatgi contended that Goswami only wanted to highlight that sadhus were being lynched in the presence of policemen, and question the Congress’ silence on the issue.

‘Is Arnab Goswami a special privileged person?’

Even though notice hadn’t been issued yet, senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Vivek Tankha and Manish Singhvi appeared for the Congress-ruled states during the hearing Friday.

Appearing for the Maharashtra government, Sibal began his arguments referring to statements made by Goswami during his show. He asserted that Goswami was “creating communal violence” by such statements and by pitting Hindus against the minority.

Sibal also questioned the filing of the petition under Article 32 of the Constitution, submitting that an FIR cannot be quashed at this stage and that they should be allowed to investigate.

He asked if Rahul Gandhi can appear in a defamation case, why can’t Goswami.
“Is Arnab Goswami a special privileged person?… If Congress people have filed FIRs then what is the problem with this? Don’t BJP people file FIRs?”

Meanwhile, Senior Advocate Vivek Tankha, appearing for Chhattisgarh, contended that this was a case of “misuse of broadcasting licence”. He asserted that Goswami was disrupting communal harmony, vitiating the atmosphere during the lockdown and instigating enmity.

Tankha also protested against the grant of protection to Goswami, submitting that it is “people like him who should be stopped from saying things to protect the integrity of the country”.

While Tankha demanded that Goswami be restrained from making such statements, Justice Chandrachud expressed his disinclination towards placing curbs on the media.


Also read: Sadhus lynched in Palghar were affiliated with this UP akhara, the largest in India


What Arnab Goswami said in his petition

Goswami’s plea in the Supreme Court demanded that all these complaints or FIRs be quashed, claiming these violate his fundamental rights under Articles 19(1)(a) (freedom of speech and expression) and 21 (right to life and personal liberty).

Goswami pointed out that the FIRs registered against him are in states ruled by the Congress government or its alliances.

He also claimed that these complaints are part of a “well-coordinated and malicious campaign by the Congress and its members” and asserted, “The Complaints and the FIRs are false, vindictive, frivolous, malicious, precipitated with malice, untenable in law and have been filed with mala-fide intent by the Congress activists to coerce, harass and intimidate the Petitioner in order to muzzle the media and in particular the Petitioner, from carrying these news reports and conducting investigative journalism to bring the truth before the public.”

Goswami rubbished claims of his show disturbing communal harmony, saying he has “time and again encouraged and used the platform of its channel to foster communal harmony, especially in the present critical time of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

He went on to accuse the Congress party of harbouring “ill-well, hatred and personal vendetta” against him.

Goswam’s petition also alleged that his car was attacked in Mumbai on 23 April by two goons on a motorcycle, “who when confronted by Petitioner’s security officials, claimed to be Congress members”. He said when he tried to register an FIR against these men, the police “refused to cooperate and diluted the allegations in the FIR, indicating pressure from the State Government”.

Goswami sought a direction to the central government to provide “adequate safety and security” to him, his family members and his colleagues at Republic TV at various locations in the country.


Also read: Arnab Goswami’s attack continues. Rahul, Priyanka, where’s your ‘enough is enough’ moment?


 

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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


 

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