Freedom of the press doesn’t mean that a journalist should not be asked questions, the Supreme Court observed on Monday.
The court was hearing Maharashtra’s challenge to the on its investigation against Republic TV editor Arnab Goswami. The investigation was based on a pair of FIRs filed against Goswami for allegedly inciting communal hatred through coverage of the and a at a Bandra bus station during the coronavirus lockdown.
After taking the court through the transcripts of the Republic TV shows in question, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the state of Maharashtra, questioned how the entire investigation against Goswami could be stayed, .
“Arnab Goswami will not be arrested if the investigation is revived,” he assured the court. “Message should not go that some people are above the law.”
To this, chief justice SA Bobde responded, “While nobody is above the law, some people are targeted with higher intensity. There is a culture these days that some people need a higher degree of protection.”
Responding to Goswami’s counsel, Harish Salve, the CJI observed that while the court agreed that freedom of the press was crucial, “we don't appreciate the submission that as a person from the media your client should not be asked any question...Nobody is immune to being questioned.”
He went on to seek an assurance of responsibility in reporting from Goswami, reported. “There has to be responsibility in reporting. There are some areas one has to tread with caution,” the CJI said, adding, “You can be a little old fashioned in reporting. Frankly speaking I cannot stand it. This is not the kind of public discourse we should have.”
Salve replied that he agreed with the court, but the FIRs against Goswami were not genuine and “shouldn’t be taken at face value”.
The court asked the Maharashtra government to submit a list of FIRs filed against Goswami and posted the matter for hearing after two weeks.
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