The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered release of Republic TV’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami and other co-accused on interim bail on a bond of Rs 50,000 each in an abetment to suicide case. Saying that the High Court erred in rejecting the application for grant of interim bail to Goswami, the top court said HCs were not doing enough in matters where personal liberty is denied.
“SC is unhappy that HCs, which are constitutional courts, are not doing enough in matters where personal liberty is denied…,” Justice D Y Chandrachud said. “If this court were not to interfere today, we are travelling on a path of destruction of personal liberty undeniably…Is this is what our state governments will do to those who have to be nailed…? Don’t watch the channel of you don’t like… Left to myself I will not watch… If state govt’s target individuals in this manner, let’s send out a message that SC is there,” he added.
A vacation bench of Justices Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee made the observations while hearing Goswami’s plea challenging the Bombay HC order. Goswami and two others — Feroze Shaikh and Nitish Sarda — were arrested on November 4 and have been in judicial custody.
Justice Chandrachud asked senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Maharashtra, if there was any active encouragement or instigation in the case to constitute an offence of abetment to suicide. “Otherwise look at the drastic consequences. We are dealing with personal liberty,” said Justice Chandrachud. He added that India’s democracy is extraordinarily resilient and Maharashtra government must ignore all this (Arnab’s taunts on TV).
Appearing before the court for Goswami, advocate Harish Salve said that Maharashtra Police seeking custodial interrogation of Goswami was nothing but a smokescreen to teach him a lesson.
“Allegation (against Goswami) is about withholding money which can be ascertained from documents. What’s the need for custodial interrogation? It’s just a smokescreen to teach the man a lesson,” Salve said.
Salve also said the case against Goswami did not stand the test of basic ingredients required to establish an offence of abetment to suicide under Section 306 of IPC. “For abetment, there must be direct and indirect act of commission of offense. If a person commits suicide in Maharashtra & blames govt, will CM be arrested? Need to apply proximity test to prove abetment to suicide case,” he said.
According to Live Law, Salve argued that Goswami was arrested on the basis of a three-year-old FIR. “That too during the Diwali week and then he is transferred from Taloja Jail,” he said adding, “There is not doubt about what they (state government) are trying to do.”
He also alleged that the power to re-investigate is being wrongly used by the Maharashtra government. Arguing that overlay of malice and fact, abuse and conduct of state power is not something that happens on daily basis, he said, “We’re past FIR stage. FIR was lodged in May 2018 & after this matter was probed. Power to re-investigation wrongly used,” ANI quoted Salve as saying.
On November 9, the HC bench of Justices S S Shinde and M S Karnik had denied bail to Goswami. The court said that “no case was made out based on facts of case as per section 439 of Criminal Procedure Code under extraordinary jurisdiction” and said its observations are in ‘prima facie nature.’
The HC gave him liberty to move the sessions court for bail under Section 439 of CrPC and directed the sessions court to dispose of the matter in four days, if filed.
The case against Goswami pertains to the death of interior designer Anvay Naik and his mother Kumud Naik at their bungalow in Alibaug in May 2018. According to police officials, the duo died by suicide over alleged non-payment of dues by Goswami’s channel and two other companies.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Dushyant Dave on Tuesday protested the “urgent” listing of Goswami’s petition before the two-judge bench on Wednesday.
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