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SC to hear Maha govt plea against staying probe against Arnab Goswami

New Delhi: The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on Monday a plea of the Maharashtra government challenging a Bombay High Court’s 2020 order by which it had suspended a probe into two FIRs filed against Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami for allegedly making inflammatory comments.

The FIRs pertain to Goswami’s comments during his TV programmes about Palghar lynching incident and migrants gathering in large numbers in Mumbai’s Bandra area during the Covid-induced lockdown.

A bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli will hear the appeal filed by the Maharashtra government.

On October 26, 2020, the top court observed that some people are targeted with “greater intensity” and need more protection.

The Maharashtra government, which was then ruled by Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi, had opposed the high court’s decision to stay the police probe against Goswami.

The top court had sought a response from Goswami and others on the appeal filed by the state government.

In its June 30, 2020 order, the high court noted that while Goswami’s comments targeted Congress and its president, Sonia Gandhi, he did not make any statement that would cause public disharmony or incite violence between different religious groups.

Citing observations made by the Supreme Court that India’s freedom will rest safely as long as journalists can speak to power without being chilled by a threat of reprisal, the high court had said in its order that free citizens cannot exist when the news media is chained to adhere to any one position.

While admitting for the final hearing of the petition filed by Goswami seeking to quash the two FIRs, the high court had directed the police not to take any coercive action until the disposal of the plea.

Two FIRs were filed against Goswami — one in Nagpur, which was later transferred to N M Joshi Marg police station in Mumbai following directions from the Supreme Court and another at Pydhonie police station.

The one filed in Nagpur was about a news show aired on the channel on April 21 about the Palghar incident where two religious leaders and their driver were lynched.

The Pydhonie case followed a show aired by Republic TV on April 29 where Goswami had referred to migrants gathering near a mosque outside the Bandra railway terminus during the lockdown.

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