Arnab Ranjan Goswami Vs. Union of India & Ors, AIR2020 SC2386

Arnab Ranjan Goswami Vs. Union of India & Ors, AIR2020 SC2386

Arnab Ranjan Goswami Vs. Union of India & Ors, AIR2020 SC2386

Arnab Ranjan Goswami vs. Union of India & Ors, AIR2020 SC2386

Coram: Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah.


Facts of the Case

The Petitioner is the Editor-in-Chief of an English television news channel, Republic TV, and also Managing Director of ARG Outlier Media Asianet News Private Limited that owns and operates a Hindi television news channel by the name ‘R Bharat’. The Petitioner anchors news shows on both channels. A broadcast that took place on 16 April 2020, a broadcast took place on Republic TV, followed by a broadcast on R Bharat on 21 April 2020 led to the lodging of multiple First Information Reports and criminal complaints against the Petitioner in various states of India. FIRs and complaints were pertaining to broadcasts on Republic TV and R Bharat in relation to an incident that took place in Gadchinchle village of Palghar district in Maharashtra, where three persons including two sadhus were brutally killed by a mob, allegedly in the presence of the police and forest guard personnel. The incident was widely reported in the print and electronic media. Petitioner in his news show titled “Poochtahai Bharat” claimed to have raised issues in relation to the allegedly tardy investigation of the incident, inconsistent versions of the authorities and the administration and the State Government’s silence on the incident given. The Petitioner further claimed that following the broadcast, “a well-coordinated, widespread, vindictive and malicious campaign” was launched against him by the Indian National Congress and its activists followed by a campaign for the arrest of the Petitioner was allegedly launched on social media, using the hashtag: #ArrestAntiIndiaArnab. It was further the case of Petitioner that all the complaints and FIRs were lodged in States where the governments which were formed in alliance with INC and the law enforcement machinery was being set in motion with an ulterior motive. The Petitioner also referred to an incident when his car was confronted by two individuals on a motor-cycle who alleged to have disclosed their identity as members of the INC.
1. Whether Arnab Goswami, who stands accused, can get the case investigated by an authority of his choice.
2. Whether the Courts can consolidate the various similar FIRs under Article 32.
3. Whether the statements made by Arnab Goswami on live TV fall under the protective ambit of Article 19(1)(a) or can be restricted as per the provisions under Article 19(2)

Observation and Decision
The Supreme Court observed that to allow a journalist to be subjected to multiple complaints and to the pursuit of remedies traversing multiple states and jurisdictions when faced with successive FIRs and complaints bearing the same foundation, has a stifling effect on the exercise of his freedom. The court thus held that the right of a journalist under Article 19(1)(a) is no higher than the right of the citizen to speak and express, but the society must never forget that one cannot exist without the other and free citizens cannot exist when the news media is chained to adhere to one position.

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