Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde, giving a rare insight into his personal side, said he “cannot stand” the bombast on TV.
“Frankly, I cannot stand it … This was never a part of our public discourse,” Chief Justice Bobde orally addressed senior advocate Harish Salve, who represents Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, on Monday.
Chief Justice Bobde said the court was concerned about the peace and harmony of the society. There had to be responsibility in reportage. There were some areas which had to be covered with caution.
The case concerned the registration of criminal cases against Mr. Goswami by the Mumbai police for allegedly inciting communal hatred with his remarks on air in connection with the Palghar lynching case and the crowding of migrant workers at the Bandra railway station in violation of the pandemic lockdown in April. The Bombay High Court had suspended the investigation for lack of a prima facie case against him. The Maharashtra government had appealed the High Court decision.
Mr. Salve said the FIR was not “genuine.” He said any press coverage of communal or criminal violence today leads to registration of FIR under Section 153A (communal hatred) of the Indian Penal Code.
But Chief Justice Bobde said “you do not always have to conform to the mores of the day … You can be a little old-fashioned.”
Senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, for Maharashtra, said the State would not take any coercive action against Mr. Goswami and would issue summons 48 hours prior to calling him, etc.
“You are entitled to ask questions, but you cannot unnecessarily harass,” the CJI told Mr. Singhvi.
The senior lawyer said the court should not send a message across that “some people are above the law.”
“While none are above the law, some may need additional protection as they may feel they are targeted with some intensity,” the CJI reacted.
“Some people should not think they are the ‘Island of the Republic’,” Mr. Singhvi replied.
In his turn, Mr. Salve said not only his client but his entire editorial staff were threatened with criminal proceedings. “This is a joke going on in that State,” the senior lawyer objected.
The CJI said a member of the media could not interpret protection afforded to his profession to mean “nobody can ask me a question.”
“Nobody is immune from questioning. Questioning can be done with due respect to dignity and privacy … We want some assurance of responsibility from you,” the CJI addressed Mr. Salve.
The court gave Mr. Goswami’s side two weeks to file an affidavit.