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Bombay HC finds prima facie no Criminal Offence is made out in FIR(s) against Arnab Goswami

The Bombay High Court on 30 June, 2020 {Arnab Ranjan Goswami vs State of Maharashtra and others} held that the object of or the target of the petitioner's attack was primarily Smt. Sonia Gandhi and the Congress party. It was held that there was no mentioning of either the Muslim community or the Christian community. It was held that it would be too far fetched to say that two religious communities were involved in the debate. It was held as a matter of fact, there was no reference to the Muslim community or to the Christian community. Therefore, it was held that prima facie no offence is made out as per FIR(s) and transcripts of debates, conducted by the petitioner on News Channel.

It was held by the Division Bench of Bombay High Court, comprising Justice UJJAL BHUYAN & Justice RIYAZ I. CHAGLA, that if Sections 153, 153A, 153B and 295A IPC are carefully analysed, it would be seen that the common thread running through all the sections is promoting or attempting to promote disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious groups or communities etc.; thus doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony and national integration.

In the present case, by filing the petition under Articles 226 / 227 of the Constitution of India and section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, in Bombay HC the petitioner sought the quashing of FIR(s) and other ancillary reliefs.

The HC held that, on an overall consideration, it is of the prima facie view that FIR(s) on the face of it do not make out commission of any criminal offence by the petitioner.

The Bombay HC held that India's freedoms will rest safe as long as journalists can speak to power without being chilled by a threat of reprisal; free citizens cannot exist when the news media is chained to adhere to one position. The HC held that it cannot have the spectacle of a Damocles' sword hanging over the head of a journalist while conducting a public debate. It was held that India is now a mature democracy. It was held that seventy years into our republic we cannot be seen to be skating on thin ice so much so that mere mention of a place of worship will lead to animosity or hatred amongst religious communities causing upheaval and conflagration on the streets. It was held that subscribing to such a view would stifle all legitimate discussions and debates in the public domain.

The HC, therefore, in interregnum directed that all further proceedings in FIR No.164 of 2020 before the N. M. Joshi Marg Police Station, Mumbai and FIR No.137 of 2020 before the Pydhonie Police Station, Mumbai shall remain suspended.

It was further held that interim order passed on 09.06.2020 to the effect that no coercive steps shall be taken against the petitioner vis-a-vis the above two FIRs shall continue till disposal of this petition. And the matter stood adjourned by HC. 

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