The Bombay High Court on Monday directed the Mumbai police to issue a summons to Mr. Arnab Goswami, the Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV, in the first instance if he is proposed to be added as an accused in the FIR alleging manipulation of Televions Rating Points(TRP).
A bench comprising Justices SS Shinde and M S Karnik also recorded the statement made by Senior Advocate Harish Salve on behalf of Goswami that he will appear and cooperate with the investigation if such a summons is received.
The bench has agreed to start the final hearing on the petition from November 5 at 3 PM.
Though Salve pressed for interim protection from arrest, the bench observed that it was difficult to pass such an order at the present stage when Goswami has not yet been named as an accused.
The bench noted that the police has issued summons to seven employees of Republic TV and that none of them has been arrested so far.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the State of Maharashtra and Mumbai police, agreed that summons will be first issued to Goswami. He, however, expressed that he was not giving any commitment that Goswami will not be arrested.
The bench remarked that if a summons is issued, there will not be a question of arrest.
Salve submitted that the Mumbai Police Commissioner was acting vindictively by giving press statements against Republic TV and Goswami even though they have not been named as accused in the FIR. The critical reports made by Goswami against the Maharashtra police for its handling of Palghar case is the genesis of the controversy, Salve said.
He then narrated various events such as the SC order to consolidate the FIRs against Goswami over his reportage of Palghar and Bandra incidents, the Bombay HC stay on the FIRs, the appeal made by Shiv Sena to cable operators to boycott Republic TV, the breach of privilege notice issued by Maharashtra assembly against Goswami, and the latest show-cause notice issued by Mumbai police to him under Section 108 of the CrPC.
Salve argued that the present FIR was the latest in the series of actions taken by the Maharashtra administration to target and suppress the journalistic freedom of Republic TV.
Sibal submitted that the petition was premature and the investigation cannot be interdicted when it was at a very nascent stage. He contended that the issue of mala-fides has no relevance in a criminal investigation if there are incriminatory materials.
Sibal also submitted that Goswami was not entitled to ‘special privileges’ just because he was a journalist and that he should avail the remedy under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to seek anticipatory bail if he was apprehensive of arrest.