Maharashtra government mulls action against Arnab Goswami over leaked chats

Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh said the state government was taking legal opinion on the possibility of action against Arnab Goswami under the 1923 Official Secrets because of the WhatsApp conversation related to national security.
500 pages of WhatsApp messages between Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami and former Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) chief Partho Das were leaked. (Satish Bate/HT PHOTO)
500 pages of WhatsApp messages between Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami and former Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) chief Partho Das were leaked. (Satish Bate/HT PHOTO)
Updated on Jan 20, 2021 04:08 AM IST
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By, Mumbai

Maharashtra has sought legal opinion on taking action against Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami for allegedly leaking sensitive information related to the 2019 Pulwama attack and Balakot airstrike on Pakistan, based on transcripts of the journalist’s WhatsApp conversation released by Mumbai Police last week, state home minister Anil Deshmukh said on Tuesday.

Goswami, however, in a statement said that “it is beyond absurd to suggest that expecting India to strike back at Pakistan, after the Pulwama attack, was a crime”.

Deshmukh said the state government was taking legal opinion on the possibility of action under the 1923 Official Secrets Act, a colonial-era anti-espionage statute with punishments ranging between three and 14 years, because the WhatsApp conversation related to national security.

“We have taken serious note of the 500 pages of leaked WhatsApp messages between Goswami and former Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) chief Partho Dasgupta. In the messages, Arnab speaks about the Balakot airstrike two days before it happened. It is a serious threat to national security if such sensitive information was leaked to the media house,” said Deshmukh, whose Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) asked the Centre to set up a joint parliamentary committee to probe the purported chats.

Deshmukh also called on the Centre to initiate strict action in the matter. “On the state level, we are checking if Maharashtra Police can initiate action. I am speaking to senior police officers and have sought legal opinion if action can be initiated under section 5 of the Official Secrets Act, 1923,” said Deshmukh.

The chat transcripts were part of a 3,600-page charge sheet filed by Mumbai Police in connection with alleged manipulation of TRP (Television Rating Points) and became public last week.

Deshmukh’s comments came after he met a delegation led by Maharashtra Congress general secretary Sachin Sawant, who demanded action against Goswami. Sawant also demanded Goswami’s immediate arrest for what he described as an act of “treason”.

According to the purported chat transcripts, Goswami texted Dasgupta three days before the February 26, 2019 Balakot airstrike, saying “something big will happen” and “on Pakistan the government is confident of striking in a way that people will be elated.”

Reacting to the above developments, Goswami, in a statement, said: “I am horrified that the Congress party actually thinks that any journalist in India expressing the views publicly stated by the Government is committing a crime.”

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