New Delhi: The Times Group on Wednesday sought a permanent injunction against the use of the expression “the nation wants to know" on Republic TV, helmed by its former employee Arnab Goswami even as the court allowed the latter to keep running a programme titled the The Newshour and to use what the judge referred to as Goswami’s favourite expression—“the nation wants to know".

Goswami was editor-in-chief of Times Now, run by Times Group, where he anchored The Newshour programme. He left the broadcaster last year to launch Republic TV where he launched a programme of the same name—with a tagline “the nation wants to know".

In a petition filed in the Delhi high court, Times Group took exception to both.

Times Group counsel Rajeev Nayyar argued that the expression “the nation wants to know" has been used below the Times Now logo since 9 January 2013.

In April, Goswami said in a Youtube audio clip that Republic TV had been served a legal notice over the use of the phrase “nation wants to know".

“A media group has sent me a six-page letter threatening me with imprisonment if I ever use the phrase ‘nation wants to know’. They say that they own the phrase," Goswami had said in the clip.

On Tuesday, justice Manmohan said the audiences that both these channels catered to were well “educated and aware and could discern one from another. Competition and bitterness between the parties is evident. As such, whether passing off (someone else’s phrase as one’s own) had occurred or is occurring at all, is questionable".

The judge advised both sides to “lower the temperature as the ensuing bitterness is good neither for the senior management of both companies, nor for the industry or the masses".

He said “negative covenants cannot be issued against former employees" because it would have the effect of making a former employee a “domestic servant for life".

Nayyar argued, “It is not a negative covenant but a matter of passing off. If it was about fair competition why is he (Goswami) running around for registering these as trademarks?"

The court ordered Republic TV to file a written statement on the matter within four weeks while restraining both parties from reporting or publishing news on the matter. The restraint order does not operate against any third party.

“I am delighted and very grateful to the court for recognising our irrevocable right to use the phrase ‘nation wants to know.’ This phrase represents the core of our journalism and our fight for accountability. I was surprised when I was told a media group wanted to arrest me for using it," said Arnab Goswami, founder, Republic TV.

Text messages and calls to M.K. Anand, chief executive and managing director at Times Network remained unanswered.

HT Media Ltd, the publisher of Mint and Hindustan Times, competes with Times Group in some markets.