'Media can't run parallel probe': Delhi HC tells Arnab Goswami to show restraint in Sunanda Pushkar case

The court was hearing an application by Congress MP Tharoor seeking an interim injunction against Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of Republic TV, from making defamatory remarks against the Congress leader

FP Staff September 10, 2020 19:25:55 IST
'Media can't run parallel probe': Delhi HC tells Arnab Goswami to show restraint in Sunanda Pushkar case

File image of news anchor Arnab Goswami. News18

The Delhi High Court Thursday told Arnab Goswami to show restraint and bring down the rhetoric while covering Sunanda Pushkar death case. The court also directed him to be bound by his 2017 undertaking on showing restraint and said the media could not run a parallel investigation.

The court was hearing an application by Congress MP Tharoor seeking an interim injunction against Goswami, Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV, from making defamatory remarks against the Congress leader.

As per PTI, Justice Mukta Gupta said the court was not saying that the media would be gagged, but that the sanctity of the investigation must be maintained.

“Please show restraint. Once the police investigation is going on in the criminal case, there cannot be a parallel investigation by the media,” the judge said, as per PTI.

The judge further remarked that anyone getting into journalism must take a course in criminal trials.

On the channel’s claim that they have evidence, the judge, as per PTI asked: “Were you at the spot? Are you an eye witness? There is some sanctity attached to the investigation.”

As per Live Lawthe judge further told the channel: "Just because there's a bite mark, it doesn't amount to murder. Do  you even know what constituted murder? You need to first understand what murder is before claiming that a murder took place."

To this, advocate Malvika Trivedi, representing Goswami, said there was evidence from AIIMS, based on which certain broadcast was aired.

The judge said it was for a court of law to decide what was evidence in a criminal trial and there are statements from here and there which are not evidence.

"You are not in the field of collecting evidence," the judge said, as per Live Law. "You have no access to the evidence. Do you even know how evidence is collected and appreciated in a criminal trial?"

“Can the media sit in appeal against the charge sheet filed by an investigating agency?” the judge asked as per PTI. “It is not a reflection on the plaintiff (Tharoor) but the investigating agency. Can there be a parallel investigation or trial? ... Would you not like the courts to take their own course?” the judge said.

As per Bar and Bench, the court observed that there were "serious consequences" to alleging that a murder had taken place and one cannot sit in appeal against charge sheet filed by an investigating agency.

The high court, in the 1 December, 2017 order, had said Goswami and his channel have the right to air their stories and the same cannot be curbed, but it has to be tempered and balanced.

The court, referring to this order, said, “Press cannot ‘convict anyone’ or insinuate that he/she is guilty or make any other unsubstantiated claims. Press has to exercise care and caution while reporting about matters under investigation or pending trial.”

 As per PTI, the judge said, “Defendants (Goswami and his channel) are thus directed to be bound by the statement made on their behalf by their counsel till the next date of hearing.”

 Tharoor’s grievance relates to broadcast of the programmes naming him on the TV channel in July and August and in the telecast, the journalist has claimed that they have investigated Sunanda Pushkar case better than the police and that he still has no doubt that Pushkar was murdered.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Vikas Pahwa, representing Tharoor, said charge sheet has been filed by the police in the case and he has been summoned for the alleged offence of abetment to suicide then how can the journalist abuse him and allege that there was a murder.

The application, filed through advocates Gaurav Gupta and Muhammad A Khan, sought that the journalist should be directed to report only on matters which are factually correct or established.

The high court noted that the Delhi Police has filed a charge sheet in the trial court which has taken cognisance of it and he has been summoned under sections 306 (abetment to suicide) and 498A (cruelty to married woman) IPC in the light of the investigation done by the agency.

The high court sought response of the journalist on Tharoor’s application and listed the matter for further hearing on 20 November.

The court’s 2017 order had come on three different applications filed by Tharoor in his Rs 2 crore defamation suit against Goswami and the channel for allegedly making defamatory remarks against him while airing news relating to the mysterious death of his wife.

The court had on 29 May, 2017, said the journalist and his news channel could put out stories stating the facts related to the investigation of Pushkar’s death but could not call the Lok Sabha MP from Thiruvananthapuram “a criminal”.

The Congress leader has sought a direction to them that they should not mention the expression “murder of Sunanda Pushkar” anywhere, since it is yet to established by a competent court whether her death was a “murder”.

Pushkar was found dead in a suite of a five-star hotel in south Delhi on the night of 17 January, 2014, under mysterious circumstances. Tharoor has alleged that they continued to engage in “defaming and maligning” him despite an assurance given by their counsel in the court on 29 May, 2017.

With inputs from PTI

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