Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Wednesday ordered the Mumbai Police to give three days prior notice in case of Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami’s arrest over the alleged TRP scam case. The police told the court that it will complete the investigation against the Republic TV within three months.
A division bench comprised of Justice S S Shinde and Justice Manish Pitale was hearing a plea filed by ARG Outlier Media — which runs Republic TV and other channels — and Goswami, challenging the Mumbai police investigation, FIR, court proceedings and charge sheets while seeking the transfer of the same to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or any other independent probing agency.
On Tuesday, Goswami’s counsel had told the court that the FIR and the charge sheets filed by Mumbai Police were solely intended to target his client for his earlier reportage against the Maharashtra government.
Senior counsel Ashok Mundargi, appearing for the ARG Outlier Media, alleged that while other channels had also been named, the police were only interrogating Republic TV employees and the channel’s role in the case. He further argued that though the Mumbai Police had been investigating for nearly four months, it has been unable to get any evidence to book the channel or Goswami.
Meanwhile, the High Court, while admitting the petition by ARG Outlier, noted in the order, “We direct that in case the investigating officer desires to summon the petitioner Goswami for inquiry/investigation, he shall give clear notice of 3 days (excluding holidays) to him.”
The court added, “In case, such notice/summons is received by the Goswami, as assured by him to this Court and recorded in the order dated October 19, 2020, he shall appear and co-operate with the inquiry before the concerned investigating officer.”
During the proceedings, bench noted that in the course of investigation/inquiry, if the probing officer has reason to believe that he or she needs to take coercive action against Goswami, clear notice of 72 hours should be given before taking such coercive action, so as to facilitate the petitioner Goswami to approach the competent forum for appropriate reliefs.
The Court further clarified, “This interim order is granted in the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case, keeping in view the serious malafide alleged by the Petitioners against respondents and also keeping in view earlier actions taken by respondent-State and its officials against the petitioner Goswami. It is made clear that, unless aforesaid procedure is followed by the Investigating Officer, no coercive action of arrest should be taken against Goswami.”
The court also noted that the probe can not be stalled right now as there was no clarity on who is the accused and who is not, thus, it extended the hearing for June 28. The court also directed Goswami to co-operate with the investigation till the next hearing.