Sunanda Pushkar Death Case: Delhi Court Orders To File FIR Against Arnab Goswami For Allegedly Accessing Confidential Documents
On February 9, a Delhi court ordered registration of an FIR against national news channel Republic TV and its editor Arnab Goswami. The court’s order came after a complaint was filed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who accused Arnab Goswami of stealing confidential documents and hacking of his e-mail in order to get confidential files in connection to the probe into the death of his wife, Sunanda Pushkar.
Illegally accessed documents
“This court is of the considered view that in view of allegations levelled by Tharoor and material produced on record in the form of Right to Information (RTI) replies and other materials, matter discloses commission of cognizable offence and in view of this court, matter requires investigation by police as it is not clear that how said material came in the possession of proposed accused persons,” said Metropolitan Magistrate Dharmender Singh, in his order that was reserved on January 21 but was uploaded on Friday, reported The Wire.
The court in its order directed the concerned station house officer (SHO) to file the FIR against Arnab. It also ordered the officer to investigate the matter and find out how the material came in the possession of the accused party.
Speaking on the behalf of Tharoor, senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, told the court that during the investigation of Tharoor’s wife death case, the police had recorded several statements of the complainant (Tharoor) including one of his aides Narain Singh. Additionally, Pahwa said that the police had also collected a number of items/materials of the deceased, and all these confidential documents and materials were part of a confidential record and had been within the sole possession of the investigation team.
“Such documents are a copy of internal file notings of Delhi police, copy of statement of complainant given to Delhi Police, copy of statement of complainant’s aide Narain Singh, pictures of deceased which were taken during the autopsy,” said the complaint.
The complaint alleged that these confidential documents were ‘illegally accessed and shown/broadcast on Republic TV news channel by accused Goswami. The advocate further told the court that the accused in order to increase his news channel’s viewership deliberately made malicious and defamatory remarks against his complainant.
Hacking of Email
Tharoor told that court that the RTI queries received from the Delhi police says that it is not permissible to share the information/ documents related to an investigation to any public member/media till the case is pending investigation. When the Tharoor showed this RTI response to the Delhi Police and told them that the accused has illegally accessed the above-mentioned documents the police did not take any action. Tharoor added that this forced him to come to the court, reported The Indian Express.
The complainant also accused of hacking his emails. He said that Goswami has accessed the complainant’s email account without his authority or consent and Goswami further shared the personal emails on their news channel.
The counsel also informed the court about a civil suit filed by Tharoor before the Delhi High Court and a criminal complaint before the trial court, seeking damages from Goswami and his channel for allegedly making malicious and defamatory remarks against him.
The Sunanda Pushkar case
Sunanda Pushkar Nath Dass was an Indian businesswoman and the wife of Indian former diplomat and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor. On January 17, 2014, she was found dead in a suite of a luxury hotel in Delhi. The couple was staying in the hotel as the official bungalow of Tharoor was being renovated at that time. Post her death, Tharoor has been charged under sections 498-A (husband or his relative subjecting a woman to cruelty) and 306 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), but he has not been arrested in the case.
The Logical Indian Take
No matter whether one agrees with the kind of journalism anchor Arnab Goswami pursue or ideology he serves, the Delhi court order to file an FIR against a journalist for obtaining documents from police is a dangerous precedent and will have a chilling effect on the press freedom in the country. Journalists work round the clock to access and publish documents which are in public interests (including information from police) and are secret to bring transparency. Though Arnab Goswami adventurism falls into public interest is to be examined, this judgment can give the state a tool to prosecute journalists who work with police (who believe that certain information needs to be public) to bring out the issues to public fore and make them accountable. However, if there is a case of email hacking then that definitely needs to be investigated and accordingly prosecuted.