By Akanksha Singh
In the Supreme Court of India
|NAME OF THE CASE||Arnab Ranjan Goswami v. Union of India and others|
|CITATION||Writ Petition (Crl) No. 130 Of 2020|
|DATE OF JUDGMENT||19 May, 2020|
|APPELANT||Arnab Ranjan Goswami|
|RESPONDENT||Union Of India And Ors.|
|BENCH/JUDGE||Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud And M.R. Shah, Jj.|
|STATUTES/CONSTITUTION INVOLVED||Code Of criminal procedure, 1973 Constitution of India Indian penal Code, 1961|
|IMPORTANT SECTIONS/ARTICLES||Constitution of India – Articles 14, 19,21, 32 and 226 Indian penal Code, 1961 – Sections 34, 153, 153A, 153B, 500, 504, 505, 506, 188, 290, 499 Code of Criminal procedure, 1973 – Sections 41 (a), 91, 160, 482, 199, 173 (2), 154, 162.|
In the recent time in 2020, a matter involving the congress Party and Arnab Ranjan Goswami with regards to the news on Palghar incident. Arnab raised a number of question relating to incident. This broadcasting led to several criminal complaints against Mr. Arnab in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir. All these are congress leading states and union territories. Arnab as a petitioner contented that it was an attempt to misuse enforcement machinery with ulterior motives. Hence, Arnab Ranjan Goswami approaches to the Supreme Court seeking relief of quashing multiple FIRs and seeking protection.
The press is the fourth mainstay of a majority rules government after the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. It is impossible to imagine a proper functioning of the public power without open and fair political discourse. In the Indian express Vs. Association of India case, it was decided that as the press plays a particularly significant role in a voting-based democracy, judges should constantly uphold the right of the press.
Everyone has the fundamental right to express their viewpoint on pressing issues, and columnists are an essential component of this particular framework. Political people and experts frequently use governmental equipment to weaken the potential of media, despite the courts’ best efforts to keep this spotless. This case is important because of how well-known journalist Arnab R. Goswami was harassed by several FIRs.
Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, provides for freedom of Speech and Expression. This case deals with the protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc. Freedom of press not only makes democracy functional but is quintessential for an informed citizenry. When any person or a journalist are harassed by any other person or by any political entities through state machinery or by any other means, his or her constitutional rights is evaded and it also effect the criminal jurisprudence.
FACT OF THE CASE
The Criminal Writ Petition (Crl) No. 130 of 2020 submitted in court by Mr. Arnab Goswami, Republic TV’s Editor-in-Chief, received a ruling from the Supreme Court. As the CEO and Managing Director of ARG Outlier Media Asianet News Private Limited, which he also owns, he anchors both Republic TV (in English) and R Bharat, a Hindi news station. Following the airing of two programmes on Republic TV on April 16 and 21, 2020, several FIRs and criminal complaints were lodged against Mr. Goswami in the states of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkhand, and the UT of Jammu & Kashmir.
In the conversations in question, Mr. Goswami brought up the Palghar Lynching as an instance. On April 16, 2020, at Gadchinchle Town, Palghar District, Maharashtra, the occurrence took place. In the heinous incident, three people—two of whom were Sadhus—were allegedly mercilessly beaten to death in front of police officers and forest guard officers. He questioned Sonia Gandhi’s silence on the major issue—that three of them were killed by locals while travelling to Silvassa on suspicion that they were thieves—and asked if she would have been as silent if Muslim or Christian religious leaders had been killed instead of Hindus.
Regarding the delayed investigation of the incident, the petitioner brought up a few points. According to the petitioner, a well-planned, retaliatory, and spiteful campaign was then started. Several members of the Indian National Congress (INC) have submitted complaints alleging violations of Sections 153, 153A, 153B, 295A, 298, 500, 504, 506 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
As he and his wife were making their way home on April 23, 2020, between 12:30 and 1:00 a.m., two motorcycle riders approached them and attacked them. This incident was also stated by Mr. Goswami. It is said that both of them acknowledged being INC members. As a result, the petitioner disapproved of the spread of all religions.
In order to safeguard his basic right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, the petitioner approached the court under Article 32.
ISSUES RAISED BEFORE THE COURT
- Is Mr. Goswami able to have the situation looked into by the authority of his choice?
- Does Article 32 allow the courts to combine numerous related FIRs?
- Whether the protections of Article 19(1)(a) or the limitations of Article 19(2) apply to Mr. Goswami’s live broadcast remarks?
ARGUMENTS RAISED BY THE APPELLATE
- Learned counsel for the appellant argued under Article 32, the discussion he had on live television was limited to analysing the sloppy investigation into the Palghar Lynching episode, the divergent views of the authorities, and the silence of the State Government.
- Learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that the government’s legitimacy in Maharashtra has been questioned in light of the horrific occurrence that occurred in front of police officers.
- Learned counsel for the appellant argued that the assertion that societal attitudes were spreading.
- Learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that in accordance with Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, the court was asked to proclaim the man’s absolute freedom of speech and expression.
- Learned counsel for the appellant argued that the investigation into the matter was unfair and prejudiced since everyone was led to believe that the authorities were deceiving the petitioner.
- Learned counsel for the appellant was also questioning the delay in the Palghar incident caused by the Maharashtra police and the fact that the agency was under the supervision of the state government, creating a clear conflict of interest.
- Learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that the dismissal of all allegations and FIRs brought against Mr. Goswami in various states, as well as a request from the Union Government for protection for his family, were the main reliefs demanded.
ARGUMENTS RAISED BY THE RESPONDENT
- The Mumbai Police, appearing for the State, claimed that the petitioner’s actions were obstructing the investigation.
- The learned counsel for the respondents has submitted that Mr. Goswami was accompanied by a multitude of columnists when he was headed to the NM Joshi Marg Police Station.
- The learned counsel for the respondents has submitted that after four hours of questioning, Republic Bharat’s Twitter account released a message saying, “Truth shall triumph” along with some other remarks that were delivered live on television.
- The learned counsel for the respondents has submitted that on Republic Bharat’s Twitter account, further tweets were delivered, giving the impression that the Mumbai police are biased.
- The learned counsel for the respondents has submitted that the investigating agency was under persistent pressure, causing the investigation to come to a halt.
- Constitution of India
- Article 14: Equality before law: The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
- Article 19: Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech etc..
- Article 21: Protection of life and personal liberty No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
- Article 32: Remedies for enforcement of rights conferred by this Part
(1) The right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this Part is guaranteed
(2) The Supreme Court shall have power to issue directions or orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, whichever may be appropriate, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by this Part
(3) Without prejudice to the powers conferred on the Supreme Court by clause ( 1 ) and ( 2 ), Parliament may by law empower any other court to exercise within the local limits of its jurisdiction all or any of the powers exercisable by the Supreme Court under clause ( 2 )
(4) The right guaranteed by this article shall not be suspended except as otherwise provided for by this Constitution
- Indian penal Code, 1961
- Section 153: Wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot—if rioting be committed—if not committed.—Whoever malignantly, or wantonly, by doing anything which is illegal, gives provocation to any person intending or knowing it to be likely that such provocation will cause the offence of rioting to be committed, shall, if the offence of rioting be committed in consequence of such provocation, be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both; and if the offence of rioting be not committed, with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.
- Section 153A: Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.—
(a) by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, or
(b) commits any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, and which disturbs or is likely to disturb the public tranquillity, 2[or] 2[(c) organizes any exercise, movement, drill or other similar activity intending that the participants in such activity shall use or be trained to use criminal force or violence or knowing it to be likely that the participants in such activity will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, or participates in such activity intending to use or be trained to use criminal force or violence or knowing it to be likely that the participants in such activity will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, against any religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community and such activity for any reason whatsoever causes or is likely to cause fear or alarm or a feeling of insecurity amongst members of such religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community,] shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both. Offence committed in place of worship, etc.—(2) Whoever commits an offence specified in sub-section (1) in any place of worship or in any assembly engaged in the performance of religious worship or religious ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine.]
- Section 153B: Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration.—
(1) Whoever, by words either spoken or written or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise,—
(a) makes or publishes any imputation that any class of persons cannot, by reason of their being members of any religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community, bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established or uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India, or
(b) asserts, counsels, advises, propagates or publishes that any class of persons shall, by reason of their being members of any religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community, be denied or deprived of their rights as citizens of India, or
(c) makes or publishes any assertion, counsel, plea or appeal concerning the obligation of any class of persons, by reason of their being members of any religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community, and such assertion, counsel, plea or appeal causes or is likely to cause disharmony or feelings of enmity or hatred or ill-will between such members and other persons, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
(2) Whoever commits an offence specified in sub-section (1), in any place of worship or in any assembly engaged in the performance of religious worship or religious ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine.]
- Section 295A: Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.—Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of 273 [citizens of India], 274 [by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 4[three years], or with fine, or with both.]
- Section 298: Uttering, words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person.—Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places, any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.
- Section 500: Punishment for defamation.—Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
- Section 504: Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace.—Whoever intentionally insults, and thereby gives provocation to any person, intending or knowing it to be likely that such provocation will cause him to break the public peace, or to commit any other offence, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
- Section 506: Punishment for criminal intimidation.—Whoever commits, the offence of criminal intimidation shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both; If threat be to cause death or grievous hurt, etc.—And if the threat be to cause death or grievous hurt, or to cause the destruction of any property by fire, or to cause an offence punishable with death or 1[imprisonment for life], or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, or to impute, unchastity to a woman, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both.
- Section 120B: Punishment of criminal conspiracy.—
(1) Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death, 2[imprisonment for life] or rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards, shall, where no express provision is made in this Code for the punishment of such a conspiracy, be punished in the same manner as if he had abetted such offence.
(2) Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy other than a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable as aforesaid shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding six months, or with fine or with both.]
- Code of Criminal procedure, 1973
- Section 41: When police may arrest without warrant.
- Section 91: Summons to produce document or other thing.
(1) Whenever any Court or any officer in charge of a police station considers that the production of any document or other thing is necessary or desirable for the purposes of any investigation, inquiry, trial or other proceeding under this Code by or before such Court or officer, such Court may issue a summons, or such officer a written order, to the person in whose possession or power such document or thing is believed to be, requiring him to attend and produce it, or to produce it, at the time and place stated in the summons or order.
(2) Any person required under this section merely to produce a document or other thing shall be deemed to have complied with the requisition if he causes such document or thing to be produced instead of attending personally to produce the same.
(3) Nothing in this section shall be deemed-
(a) to affect sections 123 and 124 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (1 of 1872 ), or the Bankers’ Books Evidence Act, 1891 (13 of 1891 ) or
(b) to apply to a letter, postcard, telegram or other document or any parcel or thing in the custody of the postal or telegraph authority.
- Section 160: Police officer’ s power to require attendance of witnesses.
(1) Any police officer, making an investigation under this Chapter may, by order in writing, require the attendance before himself of any person being within the limits of his own or any adjoining station who, from the information given or otherwise, appears to be acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case; and such person shall attend as so required: Provided that no male person under the age of fifteen years or woman shall be required to attend at any place other than the place in which such male person or woman resides.
(2) The State Government may, by rules made in this behalf, provide for the payment by the police officer of the reasonable expenses of every person, attending under sub- section (1) at any place other than his residence.
- Section 199: Prosecution for defamation.
- Section 173(2): As soon as it is completed, the officer in charge of the police station shall forward to a Magistrate empowered to take cognizance of the offence on a police report.
- Section 154: Information in cognizable cases.
- Section 162: Statements to police not to be signed: Use of statements in evidence.
Quashing of FIRs & Freedom of Speech & Press:
The Supreme Court in its earlier judgment in the case of TT Antony v. State of Kerala, interpreted section 154 and section 173 of Cr.P.C and held that ‘there can be no second FIR’ wherein the same cognisable offence has already been alleged in an FIR previously. The Court also said that receipt of every subsequent information in respect of same offence or the incident, ought not to result in fresh investigation every time. There must be a res judicata into such matter. The court try to maintain a balance by holding that a citizen should not be subjected to a fresh investigation by police pertaining to the same incident as a result of multiple FIRs.
The Court interpreted Article 19(1)(a) and said that although Freedom of Speech and expression is not absolute and it comes with certain restrictions, allowing a journalist to face multiple complaints and FIRs in multiple jurisdictions will have a ‘stifling’ effect on the exercise of freedom of the press. The court also stated that by doing such multiple FIR and complaints against the journalist not only destroy the journalist right to ensure an informed citizen but also affect the nations right to know.
The right which is exercisable by the common citizen under Article 19(1)(a) is at the same pedestal as of the journalist, it caution both media and citizen are supplementary to each other. The court also said that chaining media for any particular purpose will defeat the core democracy and the 4thpillar of the India. The Court said that filling a multiple FIRs on the same incident and on the same offence leads to the intervention of the court in this matter and court will have to protect the right of citizen.
The court at the end as to protect the right of journalist quashed all the FIRs against Arnab Goswami as it is very difficult for a citizen to visit all the state and for the same offence and for the same cause of action. Therefore, the court quashed all the other FIR except one FIR which was transferred to NM Josh Marg Police Station by the Court in its interim order in order to avoid unnecessary harassment to the petitioner journalist. A balance is sought to be achieved between Fundamental right and investigation of an offence under the Cr.P.C.
Choosing of an Investigating Agency by An Accused Person:
The Indian Constitution and the Code of Criminal Procedure is drafted in such a way to protect every citizen of our country. Right to life and personal liberty is protected under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and the hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India &Anr. , in which the Apex Court laid down that ‘the said provision ensures that a procedure in the criminal trial be right, just and fair and not arbitrary, fanciful or operative.’
On the same lines, the judgment of Vinubhai Haribhai Malaviya and Ors. v. The State of Gujarat and Anr . further laid down and reconfirmed that ‘the fair and just conduct of a trial cannot be ensured in the absence of fair and just investigation.’ Thus, in light of the law laid down in the aforesaid cases, it is evident that every accused person is entitled to fair and just investigation and trial. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Arnab Ranjan Goswami laid down the emphasis of criminal law and deals with whether the accused has a claim to choose the investigation by a particular agency.
Arnab Ranjan Goswami urged to the Supreme Court to transfer the case to CBI. Further, the investigating agency also filed an interim application to the court stating that Mr. Arnab Goswami had attempted to sabotage the investigation by misusing the influence of social media and the news channel in which he host and also the editor-in-chief of the news channel. The Court denied the contention of the Solicitor General as the Court believed that transferring of investigation on such alleged grounds “would have far-reaching consequences for the federal structure.” Thus, the Court refrained itself from appreciating the sustainability of the ground, that the investigating agency also filed an interim application against the accused, to transfer the investigation to the CBI.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court following the judgment given in the case of State of West Bengal v Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights, held that such powers to transfer an investigation are not bestowed as a matter of routine and it must be used sparingly and only in exceptional circumstances. Further, the Court notes that the decision making authority has to see whether the conducted investigation or the ongoing investigation is done in contravention of the incorporated laws or not. if only in a case if it violates the law of the land, it shall be a ground to transfer the investigation.
An accused individual “does not have a choice in relation to the form or manner in which the inquiry should be carried out or in regard to the investigating agency,” the court said in this case. The court decided as such in a manner to protect the transparency. The line of investigation and the manner of investigation cannot be decided by the person who is under investigation or interrogation.
The Court while pronouncing such statement followed the Judgment given in the case of Romila Thapar v Union of India,that “the choice of the investigative agency is made without the participation of the accused.” Additionally, the Court urged that the courts avoid from commenting on current investigations since doing so may undermine their ability to be conducted in a fair and impartial manner. It is clearly said by the court that the even though the accused has right to fair trail and investigation but it doesn’t mean that he has right to choose the investigating authority. To guarantee the fair operation of the criminal justice system, the court can only transfer the case to any other body under highly unique and extraordinary circumstances.
The facts and circumstances of the current case dictated that it be recognised as “an extraordinary case” and that the investigation be handed off to a different body. The Court however took a rather rigid path and failed to acknowledge the very rationale behind extraordinary powers. However, the approach of fulfilling its duty under Article 32 by upholding petitioner’s fundamental right to free speech is appreciable. The quashing of multiple FIRs and complaints was the correct path adopted by the Court. The balancing approach of the Court by not being hyper-activist and allowing investigation to continue in one FIR indeed reiterates that freedoms are not absolute and state’s powers of investigation are also as important as fundamental rights. In the present case, the quick manner of allocation of the case to the bench is questionable, yet the judgment majorly furthers the object of law and justice as it upholds fundamental rights. Chandrachud J., very prophetically quotes from the book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” that “questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question.” In the present times, revisiting the contours of freedom of press in the light of hate speech, fake news, constant pressure from the mighty and powerful and fear of criminal proceedings is essential. In a constitutional democracy, the price of speaking the truth and asking problematic questions should not be the initiation of multiple criminal proceedings. Let’s sincerely hope that the fourth pillar of democracy thrives in its true sense and plays a pivotal role in shaping our constitutional democracy.
 Author is 4th semester student of ICFAI University, Dehradun.
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