The Bombay High Court Monday rejected pleas of Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami and two others for interim bail in an alleged abetment to suicide case registered against them in 2018, and said they could move bail applications before a sessions court for a decision within four days.
Goswami, Feroze Shaikh and Nitish Sarda approached the sessions court in Alibag, and their bail applications stated that they were ready to cooperate with police. The court asked the defence lawyers to provide copies of the bail applications to the prosecution so that the latter could file a reply.
Meanwhile, following an order last Friday from the Chief Judicial Magistrate, the three men are being questioned by police at the Taloja Central Jail where they are currently lodged.
They will be questioned daily for three hours — the CJM court accepted the police application seeking permission to question them. Police had to seek court permission because they had not been granted custody of the three men.
Goswami, Shaikh and Sarda were arrested on November 4 after police in Raigad reopened a case involving the death of interior designer Anvay Naik and his mother Kumud Naik at their home in Alibag in May 2018. According to police, the Naiks committed suicide over alleged non-payment of dues by Goswami’s channel and companies of the two other men.
In the High Court, the bench of Justices S S Shinde and M S Karnik rejected the interim bail pleas of the three accused, saying “no case is made out for release of applicant under extraordinary writ jurisdiction”.
The bench said its observations were of “prima facie nature” and rejection of the interim bail applications “should not be construed as impediment”.
It said its earlier direction of the accused being at liberty to apply for bail under Section 439 of the CrPC before the sessions court remained unaffected and the application should be heard and disposed “expeditiously” within four days of filing.
Senior advocates Harish Salve and Aabad Ponda, representing Goswami, had sought his interim release, arguing that his arrest was “completely illegal”.
Goswami’s plea had stated that the closure report on the FIR in the case was filed in 2019, which was accepted by the magistrate the same day, and an A-summary report was filed. Ponda said it was not challenged in any court nor was there any protest petition by the informant and no remedy was exercised.
The bench said it had examined the documents on record and observed that before carrying out the probe, the magistrate was intimated about further investigation, and there was endorsement of ‘seen and file’. It said statements under Section 164 of the CrPC were recorded after obtaining permission of the CJM.
“In our opinion, the further investigation cannot be termed as illegal” or one “without seeking permission of the Magistrate,” it said.
The judges said there was “no doubt in their mind” that the state government can “always” direct further investigation to the police officers concerned, as was done in the present case.
Accepting the state government’s submissions through senior counsel Amit Desai, the bench said, “The continuous persuasion of State Government by the informant for redressal of her grievance and the concerned IO, after intimating the Magistrate, commences the further investigation, cannot be said to be irregular or illegal by any stretch of imagination.”
“Victim’s rights are equally important like the rights of the accused. We cannot accept petitioner’s contention that there cannot be further probe when Magistrate’s order accepting ‘A’ summary was without notice and without giving opportunity to the informant for filing the protest petition,” it said.
“The informant’s prayer for further investigation could not have been brushed aside by the respondent State and its officials when, as per the allegations in the FIR, two of her family members committed suicide due to the alleged acts of the accused,” it said.
On Salve’s submission that allegations in the FIR did not disclose the alleged offence against Goswami, the bench said, “The submission deserves no consideration at this stage when the investigation is in progress and the alleged suicide note recovered by the Investigating Officer mentions the name of the petitioner.”
The bench will hear Goswami’s main plea seeking quashing of FIRs and stay on investigation, along with pleas by two others, on December 10.
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