An Alibaug court sent all three to 14 days judicial custody late Wednesday evening after hearing them and the Raigad Police for over six hours. Besides a bail plea in the Alibaug court, Goswami has also moved the Bombay High Court seeking to quash the FIR and criminal proceedings against him in the abetment to suicide case.
The HC is likely to take up the plea on Thursday.
On Wednesday morning, a team from Raigad crime branch accompanied by API Sachin Vaze from Mumbai police — which is separately investigating an alleged TRP scam with Goswami as one of the accused — stormed into Goswami’s Worli residence to take him to the Alibaug police station where the FIR was registered.
Goswami, Feroz Shaikh (42) and Niteish Sarda (25) are owners of companies that had allegedly not cleared dues of Rs 5.38 crore for work carried out by Concorde Designs, an interior design firm. In his suicide note, Anvay Naik, Managing Director, Concorde Designs, held the three responsible for his death and that of his mother Kumud Naik. Kumud, a director on the board of Concorde Designs, was also found dead at the Alibaug bungalow the same day as her son’s suicide on May 5.
In a statement, Republic TV said, “At 7.45 am, Republic Media Network’s Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami’s house was encircled, his home was barged into, cameras forcefully turned off, he was physically assaulted and dragged out of his home in a police van.” The statement quoted Arnab as saying, “They hit me. They physically assaulted me.”
Following a complaint later by the Raigad Police, the NM Joshi Marg Police Station in Mumbai also registered an FIR against Goswami, his wife and son, and two staff members for obstructing a public servant in discharging his duty. The Raigad Police said
The Raigad police had registered an FIR soon after the suicide in May 2018, but filed a closure report in April 2019 classifying it as ‘A summary’. An ‘A summary’ report is filed when there is not enough evidence against an accused for the police to submit a chargesheet against him/her. The case can, however, be taken up again with permission from a court permission if further evidence is found.
In May this year, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had tweeted that the probe was handed over to the state CID since Naik’s family members had alleged the case was closed due to political pressure. Sources, however, said handing over the case to CID was not tenable since it amounted to ‘reinvestigating the same case’.
Hence it was decided that Raigad police, which had investigated the first complaint, should only investigate further the case. In their remand report Wednesday, the Raigad police said they had made an application for reopening the case on October 15 under CrPC Section 173 (8) as “new evidence” had come up.
In a statement, Republic TV described the arrest as a “part of a larger vindictive exercise against an independent journalist and an independent news organisation.” “Goswami’s arrest in a mocked up suicide case is an attempt to regurgitate a closed case in a motivated, malice-ridden and vindictive attempt to punish Republic Media Network for speaking truth to power,” it said.
The remand report mentioned the police were awaiting forensic analysis of the 2.11 lakh files found on Naik’s computer; his mobile phone too had been sent to FSL since they could not access its content. It mentioned the police would also be checking work orders between the accused companies and the deceased. The police said they have issued notices to nearly 28 persons to join the investigation with 17 witnesses having already appeared.
The new evidence, according to the remand report, was a representation made by Naik’s wife Akshata on October 12 to the Superintendent of Police, Raigad. This lists 35 points why the investigation should resume. Most points relate to the Investigating Officer Suresh Varade not following basic procedures after reaching the scene of crime and continuing to investigate the matter even after being transferred to the traffic department from Alibaug police.
Talking to reporters earlier in the day, Anvay’s wife Akshata and daughter Adnya said, “Their arrest is the first step in the fight to bring to book those responsible for the death of two members of their family.” They alleged the police were not taking their complaints seriously and they were hence dissuaded from pursuing the case.
In a signed note ahead of suicide, Naik had written, “We are committing suicide due to following – our (concorde designs pvt ltd) we both directors Mr Anvay M Naik and Kumar M Naik money is stuck & following owners of respected companies are not paying our legitimate dues. 1) Mr Arnab Goswami – ARG outlier of Republic TV not paid 83 lacs for Bombay Dyeing studio project 2) Feroz Sheikh – Icastx/skimedia not paid our 400 Lacs in Laxmi, 3rd and 4th floor Idea Square project in Andheri.3) Mr Niteish Sarda – owner of smart works – Majarpatta & banner project (55 lakhs pending). Kindly collect money from them & hold them responsible for our death & pay to creditors.”
Ahead of Goswami’s arrest Wednesday, there was disagreement between him and the police on due process. In videos of the arrest that appeared on social media, Goswami has alleged being manhandled by the police. Denying this, the police on their part alleged the arrest warrant was torn by Goswami’s family members.
The three were produced before the Alibaug court after medical tests as per procedure. Upon being enquired if they had any complaints against the police, Goswami told the Magistrate he had been beaten up by the police. The Magistrate ordered that a Civil Surgeon examine Goswami, and he was later in the evening taken to the court where the Raigad police had sought his remand.
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