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A court face-off

Advocate Vikram Singh Chauhan had filed a defamation case against then Times Now editor-in-chief for calling him a ‘goonda’ during a February 2016 primetime debate

As difficult as it might be to believe, there have been a handful of times when Arnab Goswami, current managing director of Republic TV and former editor-in-chief of Times Now, has stood up for the right cause. One such instance was back in February 2016, when he reprimanded Patiala House lawyer Vikram Singh Chauhan during the broadcast of his primetime show The NewsHour, for assaulting JNU student Kanhaiya Kumar and some journalists on the court premises during the aftermath of the JNU incident wherein anti-India slogans were allegedly raised.

Nearly three years after that incident, Goswami and Chauhan are locked in a legal battle. The reason? On February 19, 2016, Goswami allegedly called Chauhan a “goon” and a “hooligan” during his primetime show on Times Now. The TV journalist also questioned the role of the Delhi Police who stood by when the scuffle between lawyers and the JNU faculty and Kanhaiya broke out and did nothing to prevent it.

Chauhan, who allegedly led the attack on Kanhaiya (as well as the JNU faculty and journalists), was let out on bail after being arrested by the Delhi Police on February 24, 2016. Approximately a year after this broadcast, he went on to file a defamation complaint against Goswami in which he stated that the journalist had levelled “baseless and humiliating” allegations against him. According to Outlook India, Chauhan said the “defamatory allegations were levelled against him with the motive to tarnish his reputation and to wreak vengeance against him with a view to destroy his career.”

On Friday, March 15, 2019, Justice Prateek Jalan heard the case at the Delhi High Court, instead of Justice Pathak, who was supposed to hear to it initially at 10 am but was on leave. The case was listed as item no. 40 on the day’s agenda and was heard by Justice Jalan in Courtroom Number 35 of the Delhi High Court.

Although the counsel for both parties was present, neither Goswami nor Chauhan was present in the courtroom. This is because Goswami had earlier challenged the summons issued to him by a magistrate on February 28, 2019, and had moved the Delhi High Court on March 7, 2019, to this effect. Goswami was then granted exemption from personal appearance by the court till March 15, when the matter would be heard by a coordinate bench before whom other pleas connected to the incident are also currently pending.

Funnily enough, the magistrate who had issued the summons to Goswami is also the same person who had taken cognisance of the chargesheet filed against Chauhan by Tilak Nagar police authorities in February 2016.

A defamation offence under the Indian Penal Code entails a maximum of two-year imprisonment or a fine, or both.

When JNU’s Kanhaiya Kumar was remanded before a Patiala House Court on February 15, 2016, a mob consisting of several lawyers beat him and some more journalists as well. The incident—which was caught on camera—showed Chauhan as part of the mob. In a sting operation conducted by India Today, Chauhan was reportedly seen confessing that he had mercilessly beaten up Kanhaiya Kumar.

Vikram Singh Chauhan was represented by advocate Vijay Aggarwal on Friday, March 15, 2019, while the counsel for Arnab was led by advocate Sidharth Agarwal. Interim relief will continue for both parties until the case is heard next on May 7, 2019.  n