Repunlic TV, Arnab Goswami v Mumbai Police Commissioner
Ever since Republic TV started covering the death of Sushant Singh Rajput and questioning the conduct of Mumbai police and some Bollywood figures, the Mumbai Police commissioner has been part of their coverage. The coverage of Republic TV has been headed by its editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami and thus – the matter has become Republic TV and Arnab Goswami versus Param Bir Singh. There are ‘games’ at play here.
The conduct of Mumbai police has been questionable, in at least the way the due legal processes have been ‘not followed’ if not breached.
This has not pleased the Mumbai Police commissioner and the discrete war between the two – which perhaps began with the killing of two sadhus in Palghar back in April 2020 – has now become a public stoush – when Commissioner Singh – on October 8 wrongly accused Republic TV in the TRP scam case.
Republic TV was quick to lay its hands on documents to claim that the Commissioner had wrongly named Republic TV when in fact the investigation into the TRP scam was actually against the India Today network.
In his flamboyant style – Arnab thundered on TV flaunting the BARC FIR and Hansa Report – and claimed both documents named named India Today and not Republic TV – that Param Bir Singh had lied.
In his typical style – which sometime borders on being ostentatious, Arnab in a segment of his program which went to air on October 22, ‘Biggest Story Tonight’, alleged that commissioner Param Bir Singh is spoiling the Mumbai Police’s image and his orders are not acceptable to the junior officials in the department.
This was logically extended to suggest that Republic TV was suggesting to the police force in Mumbai to see the actions of their chief to be illegal and thus unworthy of being followed.
And that brings in the archaic law The Police (Incitement to Disaffection) Act of 1922.
The relevant law says:
“Whoever intentionally causes or attempts to cause, or does any act which he knows is likely to cause, disaffection towards the Government established by law in India amongst the members of a police force, or induces or attempts to induce, or does any act which he knows is likely to induce, any member of a police-force to withhold his services or to commit a breach of discipline shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees, or with both.”
Bad news for Republic journalists including Arnab
Interestingly by an amendment (Act 23 of 1983) the state of Maharashtra amended the punishment provisions under this section, making the imprisonment to be NOT LESS THAN SIX MONTHS (unless the Court provides reasons to be lenient) and the fine to be NOT LESS THAN Five Hundred rupees.
The Mumbai police through its Special Branch-1 (Intelligence Wing of the Mumbai Police) filed an FIR No. 143 of 2020 filed on Friday against the entire Republic network staff – Arnab put the number to approximately 1000 – invoking that law which was last used in India more than 34 years ago. A sub-inspector at the Social Media Lab (SML) registered the FIR at the NM Joshi Marg police station in Mumbai.
“By broadcasting such content, the channel and its journalists intentionally tried to incite disaffection among the police personnel against the police commissioner and the act also maligns Mumbai Police’s image,” the complainant said in the FIR.
Following the registration of the FIR, a somewhat rattled Arnab Goswami announced on TV that many of his staff – big and small – had been questioned at the NM Joshi Marg police station for hours at end.
“… It is a fact that 1000 journalists of the Republic Media Network now face an FIR… Param Bir Singh is carrying out police terrorism and trying Emergency tactics in a free country. I do believe that the criminal process and breach of law is something which will be noticed by everyone – the Court, the media and the police themselves. We will fight this battle and win”, said Arnab Goswami.
What Mumbai police commissioner is doing seems as if he is seeking revenge after being exposed making statements against and about Republic TV which seem totally false. If the documents Arnab showed on TV were the documents he claimed they were, Param Bir Singh cannot prove his case against Republic TV in a court of law. That to a layman is telling lies.
And now with the FIR against Republic network’s 1000 staff, seven of whom have been issued summons, it can be a difficult time for the Republic Network.
The conduct of Mumbai police was commented upon by the Supreme Court of India in the judgement when the SSR case was handed over to the CBI. Directly commenting on the way Mumbai police was conducting its investigation in the case, the Apex Court (in Para 35) said: “…considering the apprehension voiced by the stakeholders of unfair investigation, this Court must strive to ensure that search for the truth is undertaken by an independent agency… Most importantly, the credibility of the investigation and the investigating authority, must be protected.”
The Republic Network and Arnab Goswami have moved the Mumbai High Court to have the FIR quashed.
The court heard the matter on October 19 and has adjourned it to November 5 at 3.00 PM. The Court has also directed to the Investigating Officer (of Mumbai Police) to submit the investigation papers in a sealed envelope on 4th November 2020 to the Judicial Registrar.
Arnab not an accused, thus no arrest, to be issued Summons first
As the case currently stands, Arnab is not arraigned as an accused in the FIR (143 of 2020). When Arnab’s lawyer expressed an apprehension that the Investigating Officer may arrest Arnab, alleying any fears the Mumbai High Court pointed out that he (Arnab) was not yet arraigned as an accused in the FIR and directed Mumbai police to issue Summons first, if they want to interrogate him.
It is very strange that Arnab who allegedly made the ‘incitement to disaffection’ statements on TV – is not even arraigned as an accused in the FIR.But his entire staff, it seems only in order to break his commercial back, is the subject of the FIR 143 of 2020 and all his top officials – who are running the Republic network with him are being targeted.
There is only one description of this entire black scenario in India’s commercial capital – Republic network and Arnab Goswami are placed under an undeclared emergency.
Unsurprisingly – Editors Guild of India and News Broadcasters Association (of India) (NBA) are enjoying this oppressive attack on the Republic network and freedom of press. NBA has actually called Arnab Goswami’s and Republic’s journalism to be toxic and unethical.
More to come!