After securing protection from arrest for three weeks from the Supreme Court in relation to FIRs filed against him in the States of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Jammu & Kashmir, fresh petitions have been filed before Bombay High Court and Karnataka High Court seeking registration of FIRs against Arnab Goswami, Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV and ban on both channel and the anchor from broadcasting anything.
The petitioners in Bombay High Court are Bhai Jagtap, a Member of Legislative Council and Suraj Thakur, State Vice President of Maharashtra Youth Congress. Whereas the petition before Karnataka High court has been filed by Mohammed Arif Jameel, a social worker and RTI activist from Bengaluru.
Both petitioners seek directions to the State to register FIR against Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami for falsely potraying the mob lynching of two sadhus and their driver in Palghar as a communal incident in a segment on Republic TV and making allegations against Congress President Sonia Gandhi related to the said mob lynching.
Mohammed Arif points out the Supreme Court’s observations on March 31 wherein the bench comprising of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justice L Nageshwara Rao had concluded that the migration of large number of labourers working in the cities was triggered by panic created by fake news that the lockdown would continue for more than three months.
At that time, the Supreme Court had asked the media to be responsible in its coverage of the pandemic of Covid-19. In the backdrop of these observations, the petition goes on to quote the alleged derogatory statements made by Arnab on the show-
“If this had happened in a state run by BJP, and, instead of Hindus, and let me be very direct about it, they were from any minority community, would Nasseeruddin Shah, Aparna Sen, Ramchandra Guha, Siddharth Varadarajan, and the award wapsi gang, would they have gone berserk today?”
The petition states-” Respondent No 8 (Arnab) in utmost unethical, deplorable manner, belittling the profession of journalism in repeated attempt to paint the event of mob lynching at Palhar, Maharashtra into into an communal event demonising the common man to be at fear for his life at all times;
The statements made promoting hatred are a punishable offence and an assault on our constitutional values including the right to life of an entire community.”
Arnab had reportedly also said-
“I would like to ask the country, would the country had remained silent if Maulvis or Christian Padres would have been targeted the way Hindu saints were? Would Italy’s Antonia Maino (Sonia Gandhi) have remained silent then?”
Similarly, the petition before Bombay High Court refers to the segment aired on April 21 called “Puchta Hai Bharat” on the republic TV channel in which they “unabashedly attempt to paint the recent Palghar mob lynching incident as a political and religiously backed phenomenon.”
Petitioners contend that the State Home Minister has already clarified on April 19 through twitter that there was no communal angle to the said incident and that the victims and the accused were not from different religions. In fact, two policemen who were present at the spot but failed to save the sadhus and their driver, were suspended and 101 people who were allegedly part of the mob have been arrested.
The petition sites specific examples from the show to highlight the “religious overtones”-
“The Respondents Nos. 3 and 4 intentionally engaged in outright lies to paint minority religions in a negative light. Repeated claims by the Respondent No. 3 such as “award wapsi gang-mombatti gang santo ke mob lynching par khamosh hai” (the award-returning, candlelight gang is silent on the mob lynching of Hindu saints), “mob lynching ko mazhab ke chashme se dekha jaata hai” (mob lynching is merely viewed through the lens of religion), and rhetoric questioning such as “kya gerua pehenna paap hai?” (is wearing saffron a sin?) ”
Thereafter, Arnab’s comments about Sonia Gandhi from the show have been reproduced-
“Italy waali Sonia Gandhi/Antonia Maino…khush hai ki santo ko sadko pe mara gaya” (Italy’s Sonia Gandhi is happy that Hindu saints were slaughtered on the streets) aimed to cause political uproar.
Finally, both the petitioners have sought a ban on Republic TV and Arnab. Petitioners before the Bombay High Court have also sought directions to the State to register an FIR against the Arnab and to begin investigations immediately.