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The Supreme Court granted three weeks of protection against any coercive steps to Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami in connection with numerous FIRs against him in several states for "derogatory" remarks against interim Congress president, Sonia Gandhi.
Hearing Goswami's plea via video-conferencing the bench comprising of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah, also put a stay on all the FIRs, except the one registered in Nagpur's Sadar Police station. It transferred the FIR in Nagpur to Mumbai where it will be investigated.
The court also said that Goswami can later file anticipatory bail plea in connection with the FIRs after three weeks and that he should cooperate with the investigating agency. "No coercive actions will be taken against Goswami for two weeks," the court declared.
Goswami on his primetime TV show in Republic Bharat on Tuesday, the Hindi channel of the network, had said that Sonia Gandhi is "happy" that the saints have been killed in a state ruled by her party, referring to the Palghar incident.
More than 100 FIRs have been filed against Arnab, not just for quoting derogatory remarks over the Congress leader, but also inciting communal hatred while addressing the unfortunate incident that took place in Palghar.
Questioning her silence over the unfortunate Palghar incident, Goswami said, "I ask and the Nation asks: If Maolvi (Muslim preacher) had been killed today, Would there be same calmness? Italy waali Sonia Gandhi chup rehti? She will send a report to Italy saying that 'Where I formed the government, I am getting saints killed," he stated.
Many senior Congress leaders from Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Punjab, lodged formal complaints against him, accusing him of "deliberately making inflammatory statements" and using a derogatory language against the Congress president, also calling Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh chief ministers as Sonia's "puppets".
One of the first FIRs to be registered against Goswami was in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, on Wednesday with two separate FIRs against him over communal hatred and broadcasting misinformation related to COVID-19 on Republic TV.
Separate complaints by Chhattisgarh Health Minister TS Singh Deo and Chhattisgarh Congress president Mohan Markam filed complaints stating Goswami's statements promoting enmity between the communities, under Sections 153A (promoting enmity), 505(2) (circulation of rumours), and 295 A (deliberate acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class) of the Indian Penal Code.
Madasar Choudhary, General Secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir Youth Congress, also filed an FIR against Goswami to the Poonch police station, over his offensive comments.
INC party president from Raipur, Girish Dubey, registered another FIR under Section 188 of IPC for allegedly spreading misinformation and fake news related to the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by an FIR registered Jharkhand by Mahagama MLA Deepika Pandey Singh and Youth Congress leader, Kumar Raja.
Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee President Ajay Kumar Lallu and Tamil Nadu Youth Congress President, Mansoor composed an objection too, looking for a prompt enrollment of FIR against Goswami.
The ongoing ruckus was further followed by an attack on Goswami and his wife while returning home on Wednesday night (22nd April), by two men on motorcycles. The accused caught the next day, have been identified as Prateek Mishra and Arun Borade, both office-bearers of the Youth Congress in the Sion-Koliwada Assembly constituency.
In the FIR filed at NM Joshi Marg Police Station and the video recorded by him on the same night, Goswami said that persons had "confessed" to the Mumbai Police and have been identified as members of Youth Congress, operating at the instructions of 'higher-ups'. The identification has been confirmed to Newslaundry, by Abhinash Kumar, the deputy commissioner of police, Zone 3.
Soon after the incident, many BJP leaders took to Twitter, condemning the alleged attack on Arnab. Information and Broadcasting Minister, Prakash Javadekar, while speaking to ANI said the attack is condemnable on any journalist and stands against democracy. He also said that it is ironic to see that those who preach tolerance have become so intolerant, and that police should take immediate action. Party leaders have requested CM Uddhav Thackeray to seek after the case with urgency.
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