On Friday, the Rajasthan High Court granted interim protection from arrest to Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami in a case filed against him under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for promoting enmity between religious groups.
Police in Rajasthan's Udaipur registered a first information report against Goswami on May 17 after Pawan Khera, a spokesperson for the Congress party, filed a complaint against Republic Bharat's broadcasting of a certain news show (Hindi channel of Republic).
Arnab Goswami requested a quashing of the FIR in the High Court. Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethamalani brought up the issue before Justice Sandeep Mehta, who directed the police not to use any coercive steps against those mentioned in the FIR. PThe next hearing on this case will take place on May 23.
According to the plea, the FIR was filed with the express purpose of harassing and embroiling Republic TV in legal proceedings.
The plea said that,
"The current FIR has been filed at the behest of Mr. Pawan Khera, who is the Spokesperson, All India Congress Committee and represents the Indian National Congress in various TV talk shows, discussions/debates that are held on different news channels etc. as per his own complaint. It must be noted that in a case where the Congress government of the state of Rajasthan was being questioned, a member of the Congress has filed a complaint. This establishes how the entire case is motivated and made to harass and embroil a legitimate news network and its members in a litany of cases. "
The reported temple demolitions in Rajgarh and Alwar were the subject of the broadcast in question. Goswami stated that the purpose of the broadcasts was to keep the peace rather than to disrupt it.
The petition stated that the alleged demolition in Rajgarh was a matter of concern.
"In fact, the channels also covered how a Muslim Group had filed a complaint naming Congress Zilla Head Yogesh Mishra for vitiating harmony in the region. Therefore, far from causing strife, the Republic was exposing it.", the plea stated.
On the Alwar demolition, the programme used the phrase "Jahangirpuri ka badla?" Goswami said that line was not made in reference to any particular community, but rather to question whether the demolition campaign was politically motivated.
The petition stated that:
"It is submitted that there was an uproar over a demolition drive in New Delhi’s Jahangirpuri on 20 - 21st April, 2022. This demolition was being done by the Delhi MCD, which is headed by the BJP. Soon after, there was news of the Alwar Demolition in Rajasthan, where there was a Congress government in power. Therefore, the question of 'Jahangirpuri Ka Badla' is being raised in the context of its being a political battle over demolition."
The broadcast did not cause any public disorder after it broadcasted, establishing that it did not pose any threat to or disturb the peace on the ground, according to the petition.
It was contended that allowing the proceedings to continue would have a chilling effect on free speech and violate Article 19(1)(a), which guarantees freedom of speech and expression.
Besides Jethmalani, Senior Advocate Malvika Trivedi, advocates Muktesh Maheshwari, Ravi Sharma, and Siya Chaudhary, along with the team of Phoenix legal, appeared for Arnab Goswami.