Mumbai Police’s Deputy Commissioner of Police Abhishek Trimukhe has filed a complaint against Republic TV‘s Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami for what the department believes amounted to its criminal defamation when the channel covered for days on end the cops’ strange handling of the mysterious death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput.
The complaint names Arnab’s wife Samyabrat Ray Goswami and the company that runs Republic TV, ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd.
The deputy commissioner’s complaint accuses the journalist of making defamatory remarks about the Mumbai Police official.
Rajput was found dead in his Bandra apartment on 14 June last year. Within 15 min of discovering the body, Mumbai Police had declared it was a case of suicide and also that the suicide was a result of depression that the actor had been suffering from! After the intervention of the Supreme Court following Mumbai Police’s differences with Bihar Police, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) began its investigation, looking at the case also from the angle of murder.
The highest court of the country had ordered Mumbai Police to hand the case over to the CBI.
The DCP’s criminal defamation complaint, filed through the public prosecutor, states: “The instant complaint is being filed by the Public Prosecutor pursuant to the sanction granted to the complainant by the Home Department, Government of Maharashtra.”
The state government granted the sanction on 23 October, the complaint says.
The complaint has been registered under Sections 499 (defamation), 500 (punishment for defamation) and 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory) of the Indian Penal Code.
On 3 February, the Supreme Court had dismissed a PIL which had sought a direction to the CBI to file a status report in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case.
“We are not going to entertain this. You go to the high court,” the court said.
A legal adviser of Republic TV put out a statement on 3 February that said the channel’s initial reading of the complaint was that the officer was referring to tweets from a fake Twitter handle impersonating Goswami. The channel said it would respond legally “as per due process.”
Trimukhe claimed that Goswami had made several defamatory statements against him during a panel discussion pertaining to the phone records of Rhea Chakraborty, an actor and Rajput’s girlfriend, in connection with the 14 June 2020 death of Rajput by suspected suicide. Trimukhe claimed that Republic TV posted the discussion on the YouTube channel of the company on 7 August.
The police officer alleged that the content was published also on the microblogging site Twitter by Goswami subsequently. “Accused No. 1 (Goswami) has published several defamatory tweets and has essentially reiterated and re-circulated the contents of the defamatory telecast to an even larger audience by means of Twitter. The Tweets are without context and have been wilfully circulated to damage the complainant’s reputation,” states the complaint.
“The accused persons are well aware that investigation into the death of late Sushant Sing Rajput (being a well-known Bollywood star) will garner significant public interest. The accused persons, instead of conducting themselves as responsible journalists (self-proclaimed) / citizens, have chosen to profit from the situation by sensationalising and scandalising the same, and using Sushant Singh Rajput’s death and photograph (by tagging him) to disseminate the story to as many people as possible, all the while intending to defame the complainant,” read the complaint.
Trimukhe said he had sought permission from the Uddhav Thackeray government to file the defamation complaint against Goswami, his wife and the company that owns the channel. Trimukhe filed the complaint only after the state government allowed him to go ahead with the suit on October 23 last year.
A minister in the Maharashtra government and also the chief minister’s son, Aaditya Thackeray has close Bollywood connections including with Salman Khan whose protege Sooraj Pancholi had had a tiff with Rajput on Khan’s birthday — the incident many believe triggered off Bollywood’s animosity towards the actor from Bihar.