The Bombay High Court, following a day-long special hearing Saturday via video-conferencing, reserved final orders on the bail plea by Republic TV Editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami in an abetment to suicide case registered against him in May 2018. This means Goswami will remain in judicial custody further. The court, which has been hearing the plea for interim relief for three days, said it will pass the order “earliest possible”.
On Saturday night, the High court issued notice on its website and said it will pronounce order on Goswami’s interim bail plea on Monday, November 9, at 3 pm.
Goswami has also filed the interim bail application under section 439 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which provides special powers to the high court or sessions court for grant of bail.
The court also said the accused are at liberty to file for bail and directed that it be heard and disposed of within four days. “We make it clear that the pendency of this application shall not be construed as impediment to petitioner. If so advised, the petitioner can seek bail under section 439 of CrPC to sessions court. Concerned Court shall decide such application on its merits as expeditiously as possible, however, within four days, within four days from filing of such bail plea,” said the Division Bench of Justices S S Shinde and M S Karnik.
The Bench is hearing Goswami’s habeas corpus petition for “immediate release” and a stay on the investigation along with pleas by two other accused Nitish Sarda and Feroz Shaikh.
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 television channel and two other companies.
The writ plea filed by Goswami said the arrest was conducted in “blatant violation of the fundamental rights to life and personal liberty” of Goswami and his dignity guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
In his bail application, Goswami made allegations of manhandling by the police and claimed:”During the course of his arrest and while being transferred to Alibaug in a police van and in the custody of the police, the petitioner suffered a 6-inch-deep gash on his left hand, a serious injury to his spinal cord, was hit by a heavy uniform police officer’s boot, was not allowed to wear shoes throughout, suffered vein injuries and was not even given access to drinking water.”
The plea further said, “Additionally, the petitioner was also forced to consume certain liquid by the police officers guarding him and choked as a result thereof.”
Senior advocates Harish Salve and Aabad Ponda, representing Goswami, sought his interim release arguing that his arrest was “completely illegal’. Goswami’s counsels, who concluded their arguments Friday, had submitted that a closure report on FIR was filed in 2019, which was accepted by the Magistrate on the same day and A-summary report was filed. It was not challenged in any court or there was no protest petition by informants and no remedy was exercised.
On Saturday, Advocate Vijay Aggarwal for one of the accused Nitish Sarda relied on the remand order passed by the Alibag Magistrate Court denying police custody of the three arrested accused and argued: “The order says that the arrest is illegal and hence keeping them in jail is also an illegal detention. The closure report filed by the police in 2019 itself says that the three named in the suicide note were not connected with each other to have conspired to commit the offence.” Advocate for other accused concurred with Aggarwal’s arguments and sought relief.
The bench questioned Aggarwal, “Don’t you think that with the other remedies available, if we grant relief, then everyone will come to the high court? The current danger is that the High Court is already overflooded with petitions or applications for regular bail. At the same time, it will send a wrong signal that though the Section 439 is there (also provides remedy before Sessions Court for bail), then why come under the writ jurisdiction (of HC)? It will also undermine the authority of lower (trial) courts. You have remedies available.”
Opposing the pleas, senior counsel Amit Desai, representing the state government, said the petitioners should follow procedures of CrPC and seek remedy available to them before the trial courts.
“There may or may not be evidence at the end of the probe but there cannot be a stay on it. The magistrate court before whom the A summary report was filed in 2019, was informed that the case is being investigated, witness statements have been recorded. The petitioners can seek bail before the trial court, which can decide it on merits,” Desai said.
Desai further said that as per procedure, the A summary report means that while an offence took place, there is not sufficient evidence to prove it. “The report therefore says that an offence did take place. The accused till date have not challenged this before any forum. As required, the police informed the court that the probe is being continued,” he said.
Moreover, senior advocate Shirish Gupte, representing informant and intervenor Akshata Naik, opposed pleas and questioned their maintainability along with the urgency behind giving Goswami three days of hearing and contended that there will be harm to the victim’s family if the journalist is released.
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