Delhi High Court on Thursday, pulled up Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami and directed to exercise some restraint while reporting on the deceased Sunanda Pushkar case. The court orders came while hearing a plea filed by Shashi Tharoor seeking an interim injunction against the defamatory broadcasting on the channel.
A single Bench of Justice Mukta Gupta has issued the notice to Arnab Goswami and has sought a reply. Justice Gupta mentioned that till the pendency of a criminal case investigation, media should refrain from running a parallel trial, or from calling someone guilty, or from making unsubstantiated claims.
“The sanctity of an investigation and evidence has to be understood and respected,” noted the court.
Shashi Tharoor had filed a plea seeking an injunction against the Republic TV anchor Arnab Goswami, to restrain from the report or broadcast any news related to Mrs. Sunanda Pushkra death case until the case is pending in the court. Tharoor had also sought to restrain from maligning and defaming the plaintiff in any manner.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for contended, “Despite the chargesheet being filed in the Sunanda Pushkar case, where no case for murder is made out, Arnab Goswami is claiming in his shows that he has no doubts that Sunanda Pushkar is murdered.”
He also mentioned that despite of court’s last order dated December 1, 2017 restrained and refrained the defendant from conducting a media trial, Arnab Goswami continued to broadcast the defamatory content against Shashi Tharoor claiming that he doesn’t have any faith in the Delhi police’s investigation.
Advocate Sibal also submitted, “Can a man be abused like this in a public debate? How can he (Goswami) say that a murder was committed, when the chargesheet says otherwise? This cannot continue like this till this court hears the matter.”
Taking note of the violation of its previous order, the court pulled up Arnab Goswami, “When a case under abetment to suicide is made out in the charge-sheet, why are you still saying that murder has been committed. Were you there at the spot, are you an eye-witness? You must understand and respect the sanctity of criminal investigation and various contours of it. Just because there is a bite mark, it doesn’t amount to murder. Do you even know what constituted murder? You need to first understand first what murder is before claiming that a murder took place.”
Counsel Ms. Malvika Trivedi appearing for Arnab Goswami contended that their reporting is based on credible evidences which they got from an AIIMS doctor in connection to the Sunanda Pushkar’s death.
The court then, questioned the line of her contention, “You are not in the field of collecting evidence, you have no access to the evidence, do you even know how evidence is collected and appreciated in a criminal trial? Can the media act as an appellate authority over what is stated in the chargesheet? There is no gagging of the media, but the law also prohibits media trial.”
“When a chargesheet has been filed by an agency authorized to conduct investigation and a competent court, while taking cognizance of the same, has prima facie concluded that the case involves abetment to suicide and not murder, the statement made by the defendant insinuating murder being committed by Tharoor violates the direction of this court’s previous order,” the court observed.
While issuing the directions, the court also stated that the press has to exercise care and caution while reporting criminal matters that are under the investigation. The court warned Arnab Goswami, “This has to be strictly complied with, otherwise consequences will follow.”