A DAY after he was remanded in 14 days’ judicial custody in a 2018 abetment to suicide case, Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami failed to get interim relief from the Bombay High Court on Thursday.
Hearing Goswami’s habeas corpus petition for “immediate release” and a stay on the investigation by the Raigad police, a division bench of Justice S S Shinde and Justice M S Karnik said it would hear both sides first and pass an order Friday. The bench said it was ready to examine the case and hear the arguments of Goswami’s counsel on Friday. It also said the respondents should get an opportunity to contest the case before passing an order on Goswami’s plea seeking interim relief.
On Wednesday morning, Chief Judicial Magistrate of the Alibaug court Sunaina Pingle termed the arrest of Goswami and two others as “prima facie illegal” and did not grant Raigad police custody, and instead sent them to judicial custody for two weeks.
Goswami and two others were accused for abetment of suicide of interior designer Anvay Naik, who in a suicide note, held the three responsible for his and his mother Kumud Naik’s death in May 2018. The three, according to the suicide note and police officials, owed Rs 5.38 crore to Concorde Designs, of which Anvay was the Managing Director, and Kumud, a director.
The CJM had pointed out that the Raigad police had not taken the court’s permission to reopen a closed case, did not establish a link between the deaths of Anvay and his mother Kumud and also did not provide valid reasons for grant of police custody.
In the Bombay High Court, Goswami was represented by senior counsel Harish Salve and Abad Ponda at the virtual hearing. They sought his interim release arguing that Goswami’s arrest was ‘completely illegal’. Ponda urged the court to grant a stay on investigation into the 2018 FIR by the Raigad police.
Ponda submitted that a closure report on the FIR was filed in April 2019, which was accepted by the Magistrate and was not challenged in any court by the Naik family. He said the Raigad police intervened suo motu without any judicial order or permission to reopen the case. “The manner in which it has been done is completely shocking to a prudent person. Police cannot resurrect a dead case,” Ponda said.
Senior Counsel Harish Salve asked: “Will heavens fall in Maharashtra if he is released on interim bail? When liberties of a citizen are involved, procedures sometimes have to be dealt with.”
The bench issued notices to the state government and asked Goswami’s lawyers to add Akshata Naik, wife of Anvay Naik, as a party to Arnab’s plea. The court also asked that a copy of the plea be served to the Central government.
The bench said it would also hear Friday a plea by Adnya Anvay Naik, daughter of Anvay Naik, seeking reinvestigation of the ‘A’ Summary report filed in connection with the FIR of her father’s suicide case.
Goswami’s writ plea said the arrest was conducted in ‘blatant violation of the fundamental rights to life and personal liberty’ and dignity guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. It said the petitioner was ‘forced out’ of his residence by around 20 officials of the Mumbai Police and was allegedly dragged into the vehicle, and that his son was assaulted in the process.
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“It is shocking that a case that was decisively closed has been reopened with the sole purpose of misusing power, concocting facts and forcefully arresting the petitioner (Goswami) in a prima facie act of revenge and vengeance for his news coverage which questioned those in power in the State of Maharashtra,” the plea said.
“The petitioner has been assaulted by the police and has been wrongly and illegally arrested in a motivated, false and closed case. This is another attempt of the political witch-hunt and vendetta politics against the petitioner and his channel,” the petition alleged.
In his plea, Goswami has sought to be “immediately released” besides a stay on all further proceedings, including investigation into the FIR. The plea also urged that no coercive action be taken against him in respect of the FIR.
Stating that he was “illegally arrested” and “wrongfully detained” by the police despite the closure report, Goswami has sought quashing of the FIR and setting aside any order arising out of it.
Senior Counsel Amit Desai and Public Prosecutor for the state government Deepak Thakare sought time to respond to the plea and the Court issued notices to the state.
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