WRIT PETITION (Crl) No. 130 of 2020

Provisions Involved

The Code Of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2005 The Income- Tax Act, 1995 Article 32 in The Constitution Of India 1949 Article 19(1) in The Constitution Of India 1949 The Indian Penal Code Article 19(2) in The Constitution Of India 1949 Section 298 in The Indian Penal Code Section 153 in The Indian Penal Code Section 506 in The Indian Penal Code Section 499 in The Indian Penal Code


The Supreme Court decided on the Criminal Writ Petition (Crl) No.130 of 2020 filed by Arnab Goswami against the Union of India. Arnab Goswami is the Editor in chief of an English News Channel Republic TVand the Managing Director of ARG Outlier Media Asianet News Private Limited which owns and operates a Hindi Television news channel named R Bharat and Anchors news shows on both channels. Two broadcasts, one of them on 16 April 2020 on Republic TV and another on 21 April 2020 on R. Bharat were shown concerning an incident that took place on 16 April 2020 in Gadchinchle village of Palghar district in Maharashtra wherein three persons including two Sadhus were brutally killed by a mob, allegedly in the presence of the police and forest guard personnel because of which the Petitioner questioned the State government that led to the lodging of multiple FIR and Criminal Complaints against Petitioner in the states of Maharashtra, Telangana, Jharkhand and in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir by the members of Indian National Congress u/s. 153, 153A, 153B, 295A, 298, 500, 504, 506 and 120B of the IPC, 1860 and a campaign was launched on social media using the hashtag #ArrestAntiIndiaArnab. The Petitioner held that all these FIR’s, Complaints and the investigation process was well-co-ordinated, vindictive and malicious as these were launched only in the states with INC government and also referred to an incident that took place on 23 April 2020 around 12.30 am when the Petitioner was returning home by car with his wife and was assaulted by two individuals on a motorcycle allegedly disclosing their identity as members of INC. hence the Petitioner moved the Court under article 32 for the Protection of his right to freedom of speech and expression envisaged under article 19(1).


Whether the Petitioner, a Journalist in the Broadcasted video acted within the ambit of Article 19 (1) (a)?

Whether multiple FIR’s or Complaints can be filed for the same cause?

Whether the accused has the right to get the case transferred to the authority of his choice?

Whether a writ of prohibition restraining the State of Maharashtra from registering an FIR against the Petitioner concerning the Broadcast and from continuing any investigation further can be granted?


  • The Court observed that the exercise of journalistic freedom lies at the core of speech and expression protected by Article 19(1)(a). The Petitioner is a media journalist. The airing of views on television shows which he hosts is in the exercise of his fundamental right to speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a). India’s freedoms will rest safely as long as journalists can speak truth to power without being chilled by a threat of reprisal. The exercise of that fundamental right is not absolute and is answerable to the legal regime enacted concerning the provisions of Article 19(2). But to allow a journalist to be subjected to multiple complaints and to the pursuit of remedies traversing multiple states and jurisdictions when faced with successive FIRs and complaints bearing the same foundation has a stifling effect on the exercise of that freedom. This will effectively destroy the freedom of the citizen to know of the affairs of governance in the nation and the right of the journalist to ensure an informed society. Our decisions hold that the right of a journalist under Article 19(1)(a) is no higher than the right of the citizen to speak and express. But we must as a society never forget that one cannot exist without the other. Free citizens cannot exist when the news media is chained to adhere to one position. Balance has to be drawn between the exercise of a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a) and the investigation for an offence under the CrPC.
  • All other FIRs in respect of the same incident constitute a clear abuse of process and must be quashed except the one lodged in Nagpur which was then transferred to Mumbai. The Court also referred to the TT Antony vs the State of Kerala (2001) 6 SCC 181)case and opined that subjecting an individual to various proceedings on the same cause is against the states aim to prosecute crime.
  • Petitioners plea for transferring the investigation of the case to CBI was quashed. Transfer of an investigation to the CBI is not a matter of routine. The precedents of this Court emphasise that this is an “extraordinary power” to be used “sparingly” and “in exceptional circumstances”. The investigating agency is entitled to determine the nature of the questions and the period of questioning. The Court relied upon its ruling in Romila Thapar v Union of India, wherein it was held that “accused does not have a say in the matter of appointment of investigating agency”.

The Court also refused to quash the FIR registered against Goswami for allegedly hurting religious sentiments by making derogatory remarks against a religious community during the Broadcast on migrants gathered in Bandra on his channel Republic TV. Despite the liberty being granted to the Petitioner on 24 April 2020, it is an admitted position that the Petitioner did not pursue available remedies in the law but sought instead to invoke the jurisdiction of this Court. Therefore, the Court directed that the Petitioner must be relegated to avail of the remedies which are available under the CrPC before the competent Court, including the High Court. There is a clear distinction between the maintainability of a petition and whether it should be entertained. In a situation like this, the Court would not like to entertain the petition under Article 32 for the relief of quashing the FIR being investigated at the NM Joshi Police Station in Mumbai which can be considered by the High Court and would in no manner restrain the state of Maharashtra from conducting an investigation or from registering an FIR against the Petitioner concerning the Broadcast.


Article 19(1)(a) envisages freedom of speech and expression to everyone; it includes freedom to hold opinions and seek, impart and receive information through any media regardless of frontiers as it is necessary to ensure the true spirit of democracy. However, this right cannot be used to hurt the religious sentiments of people. Reasonable restrictions have been imposed under Article 19(2) for protecting the sovereignty and integrity of the country. Careless insults to religion should not be prosecuted, and only malicious and deliberate acts should be punishable, rather than the casual observations made without malicious intent. This observation by the Court checks the misuse of the law. Secondly, multiple FIR’s disturbs the working of law and acts as a hindrance in the process of justice. Hence, the facts and circumstances giving rise to both the FIRs and the test of sameness are to be applied to find out whether both the FIRs relate to the same incident in respect of the same occurrence or are regarding the incidents which are two or more parts of the same transaction. If the answer is in the affirmative, the second FIR is liable to be quashed. Lastly, the accused is bound to cooperate with the investigation agency and cannot choose the mode and manner in which the investigation should be held. CBI cannot be invoked randomly as that may withdraw the attention from the important matters.