Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami was shifted to Taloja Central Prison in Navi Mumbai on Sunday morning from a makeshift Covid-19 quarantine centre in Alibaug for allegedly using a cellphone.
Goswami, who was arrested on November 4 for allegedly driving interior designer Anvay Naik to take his own life in Alibaug in 2018, was sent to the quarantine centre in a municipal school run by the local prison authorities. The police had seized his cellphone after placing him under arrest.
Inspector Jamil Shaikh of the Raigad district police’s Local Crime Branch said that Goswami had used a mobile phone inside the quarantine centre. “He used the phone on Friday to provide updates on his situation on social media. We came to know about it on Saturday. We are conducting an inquiry to find whose phone he used,” he added.
Arnab remains in judicial custody ahead of a decision on his interim bail plea, which is set to be announced by the Bombay High Court around 3 pm on Monday.
A Republic TV video showed Goswami alleging that he was assaulted at the quarantine centre. “I am not allowed to speak to my lawyers, my life is under threat. I was pushed and assaulted this morning. At 6 o’clock, they woke me up, they said they will not let me speak to the lawyers. Please tell the people of the country, my life is under threat. My life is in danger, please tell the courts to help me. Tell the court that I have been beaten in jail.”
A spokesperson for the state prisons department said that the authorities have established video calling and coin box facilities for inmates both inside jails and at quarantine centres. “At the Alibaug quarantine centre, there is a dedicated prison department-issued smart phone entrusted to a guard, which inmates can use to contact their lawyers and family members,” he said. The spokesperson denied Goswami’s allegations that jail officials assaulted him in the process of shifting him out.
Taloja jail has seen four inmates testing positive for Covid-19 so far. Two of them died. However, no inmate has an active infection at present.
At Taloja jail, Goswami is likely to be housed in a high-security barrack meant for inmates whose lives may be under threat inside, after undergoing a Covid-19 test. “These barracks are meant to house dangerous criminals, gangsters, MPs and MLAs, away from other inmates,” said a prisons department official.
Samyabrata Ray, Goswami’s wife and the channel’s senior executive editor, said in a statement that her husband faced a threat to his life.
“This morning, my editor-in-chief and husband, who has spent four nights in judicial custody, was being dragged and lugged by the Maharashtra Police in a blacked-out police van to Taloja jail. He was repeatedly saying ‘my life is under threat’ but to no avail. He repeatedly said that the jailer assaulted him after he asked for access to his lawyers, which was shockingly denied.”
“He detailed the assault being inflicted on him during this custody and pleaded, hands folded, to the Supreme Court of India for intervention and bail…” she said.
“With Arnab publicly disclosing the threat to his life and the atrocities he is facing in custody, the law and order officers and the entire state and national machinery will be held responsible if any harm is inflicted upon my husband. I humbly appeal to the institutions that still hold truth to power and stand tall as a pillar of our great democracy to take note of the gross abuse and misuse of power at play to punish a journalist who demanded accountability,” she added.
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