The court “cannot dictate” the editorial policy of a news channel, the Delhi high court said on Friday as it refrained from passing any interim order on a plea seeking to restrain TV journalist Arnab Goswami and his Republic TV from airing any news or debate about the death of Shashi Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar.
The high court also expressed anguish that the Delhi Police has failed to complete the investigation and file a chargesheet in the three-and-a-half-year old case.
Justice Manmohan posted the matter for further hearing on September 21 asking Goswami and the channel to file their responses to Tharoor’s plea seeking to restrain them from alleged misreporting of the ongoing court proceedings.
The court said the matter required detailed hearing and a detailed order could be passed on it only after this.
It observed that the Congress leader had not shown any law by which investigation cannot be done by the journalist.
“Show me that after the first date of hearing (May 29), he (Goswami) has called you (Tharoor) a murderer,” the judge said, adding “I cannot dictate what should be the editorial policy of a news channel.”
“Not (any interim order) at this point,” the judge replied to Tharoor’s counsel Guarav Gupta, who insisted that the court should pass an interim order restraining Goswami and the news channel from casting aspersion on the Congress leader during broadcast of news on the issue.
The judge, who issued notice to Goswami and Republic TV on Tharoor’s application seeking direction not to make any defamatory publication against him in any manner, said “I cannot stop them from running of a debate of their TV channel.”
“Certainly, the public surely has a right to know what has happened in the case. The police has not even filed any chargesheet for last three-and-a-half year,” the judge said.
Senior advocate Sandeep Sethi, appearing for the Goswami and the channel, opposed Tharoor’s application on the ground that it was not supported by the MP’s affidavit as the counsel has attached the affidavit in his name.
“This application should not be entertained as such an affidavit in the name of counsel is inappropriate,” Sethi said, adding “we (Goswami, Republic TV) have not made any accusation while airing the news related to Sunanda Pushkar’s death case.”
The Congress leader has alleged that after the last hearing on August 16, the journalist and his channel continued to indulge in misreporting and had broadcast an eight-hour long programme on September 4 relating to his wife’s death.
Tharoor moved a fresh application in the pending Rs 2 crore civil defamation suit against Goswami and the Republic TV for allegedly making defamatory remarks against him while airing news on the death of Pushkar.
Pushkar was found dead in a suite of a five-star hotel in South Delhi on the night of January 17, 2014. The matter is still under investigation.
In their affidavit filed before the high court recently, the journalist and the news channel had said they have neither “condemned” Tharoor, nor suggested that he was involved in the death of his wife.
They had also denied that Tharoor was called “the killer” of his wife by him or the channel, as alleged by the MP.
The politician has alleged that despite assurances given in the court on May 29 by the counsel for Goswami and Republic TV, they were engaged in “defaming and maligning” him.
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 be established by a competent court whether her death was “murder”.
The court had on May 29 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”. It had also told their counsel to reduce the rhetoric.