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Bombay HC suspends FIRs against Arnab Goswami, says ‘prima facie no case’

The court ordered that no coercive action should be taken against him until the petition is disposed of

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday suspended proceedings in two FIRs filed against Republic Media Network and its Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami for allegedly communalising the coverage of Palghar mob lynching of Sadhus and the incident regarding gathering of migrants outside Bandra station during the lockdown.

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A division bench of Justice Ujjal Bhuyan and Justice Riyaz Changla observed that “prima facie no case was made out against him” and ordered that no coercive action should be taken against him until the petition is disposed of.

Goswami and Republic's Group CFO S Sundaram had been questioned twice each at the NM Joshi Marg Police station in the matter.

The court order reads: "While the transcript is long, it is clear that it reported the killing of 2 Hindus. Petitioner had highlighted - the thrust of debate--pet had accused Congress and SG in particular of having a communal. Mindset. When the broadcast is read as a whole, it is not communal. It cannot be said there was any offence of rioting of disruption of harmony between religious groups. Neither statement of Petitioner, nor his conduct can be said to be Deliberate creating hatred- a view may be taken that Petitioners comments were quite sharp - SC observed that offence of defamation cannot be investigated."

The judgment adds, "Supreme Court has held that India's freedom can rest safe as long as journalists can speak without threat of reprisal. Our democracy is mature and 70 years old. It cannot be said that mere mention of a hatred may lead to disharmony."

After the FIRs were suspended, Goswami said, "I am extremely grateful to our legal team and personally grateful and forever indebted to India's foremost lawyer Mr Harish Salve for fighting on our behalf and fighting with everything. I would also like to thank the entire team of Pheonix Legal for staying with me throughout the fight."

Stating that it was the Congress party and its chief that had lost, Goswami added, "What has also lost is the attempt to use the tactics of the emergency to try and say you can file multiple FIRs against a single journalist, to drag him from one state to the other, to use your police apparatus, to use your government to get the upper hand. You cannot get the upper hand when you are wrong on ethics."

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