MUMBAI: Hearing a petition for quashing of the FIR in the TRP scam filed by Republic TV’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, the Bombay high court on Monday said police will have to first issue him “summons” like it did to eight
employees. The HC observed on his plea for interim relief: “Today he is not an accused in the crime, how can we pass an order?” But it orally observed, “Once summons is sent there is no question of arrest at the moment.”
A bench of Justices S S Shinde and M S Karnik heard senior counsels Harish Salve for Goswami and
for the state and Mumbai police, including Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh. The HC recorded Salve’s statement that if the investigating officer issues summons to Goswami in the TRP case, he will “honour the summons and appear before the police officer and cooperate”. The HC, however, directed the IO to produce by November 4 in a sealed cover the details of the probe done so far and posted the matter for final hearing on November 5.
Goswami had petitioned the HC to quash the FIR in which he has not yet been named, alleging “mala fides” by Mumbai police. “Tomorrow they may call him and arrest him, we do not know,” Salve said and sought an interim order against coercive steps. To this, Sibal said, “I strongly oppose that.” Salve then sought an interim order to protect Goswami from arrest “without leave of court”. Sibal said Goswami is “not a special person. He is an ordinary person,” adding he is not entitled to special privileges as a journalist when his name is not even in the FIR. Sibal said Goswami can always file for anticipatory bail. Sibal said allegations of mala fides at this “nascent stage of investigation” cannot be grounds for any interim relief.
Justice Shinde, during the hearing via video conferencing, for which Salve logged in from the UK and Sibal from Delhi, said, “We see officers are coming before media in sensitive matters and disclosing about incriminating material... an officer is not supposed to disclose.” Sibal said he himself has “raised this issue”. He noted, “But media trials also go on on some TV channels, like this one… this (media trial) has been deprecated by the SC several times.”
Sibal argued, “If you target a police officer, what is he to do? Other media channels come to the police officer then and seek his reaction.” Sibal said, “Right to freedom speech under Art 19(1) (a) of the Constitution doesn’t protect you from an investigation.” Salve cited the earlier FIRs against Goswami related to coverage of the
lynching case. “A slew of FIRs have been filed,” he said, pointing out how he had gone to the SC, which granted protective orders as there were multiple identical FIRs lodged all over, before asking Goswami to approach the HC. The HC had on June 30 stayed the probe into the FIRs.