The Karnataka High Court has cited a recent Supreme Court order granting bail to Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami while granting anticipatory bail to the managing director of a local Kannada TV channel who was accused of extortion.
The accusation came after the channel – Power TV – had aired a series of programmes alleging corruption in the BJP government in Karnataka.
In an order issued on Wednesday, the bench of Justice B A Patil granted anticipatory bail to Rakesh Shetty, MD of Power TV channel, and asked him to cooperate in the investigations. The court stated, “It is the duty of the court to exercise its jurisdiction in a proper way to protect the personal liberty of a citizen. If courts do not interfere, then we are travelling the path of destruction. This proposition of law has been laid down by the apex court in its decision in the case of Arnab Manoranjan Goswami vs the State of Maharashtra and others decided on 11.11.2020.”
The court cited other orders where the SC has called for liberal interpretation of the legal provision for anticipatory bail since it has been conceptualised under Article 21 of the Constitution, which relates to personal liberty.
The bench granted anticipatory bail to Shetty with a bail bond of Rs 2 lakh.
The court also said that the case against Shetty does not have an impact on the country’s financial status, unlike the Enforcement Directorate’s case against former Finance minister P Chidambaram, where courts were slow in granting bail.
Shetty was accused of extortion in a case lodged with Bengaluru police soon after the channel telecast a series of programmes alleging corruption by members of Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa’s family in the award of contract for a public housing project of Bengaluru Development Authority.
Shetty had moved the HC in October after Bengaluru crime branch began probe into a complaint lodged on September 24 by one Chandrakanth Ramalingam, a director with Ramalingam Construction Company Limited. According to Ramalingam’s complaint, Shetty had coerced him into saying that he made payments to political persons for award of contracts, and that these conversations were recorded and telecast by Power TV.
The HC also questioned Ramalingam’s claim that he was forced by the channel into making allegations of having paid bribes to win a government contract. Ramalingam did not initially file a complaint or resist the attempts to influence contracts on his behalf, the HC observed.
“Complainant…has not come with clean hands and it seems all is not well. In that light, I am of the considered opinion that in order to ascertain the truth, a free and unbiased investigation is necessary. In that light, by imposing some stringent conditions, if the petitioner – accused no. 1 – is ordered to be released on anticipatory bail it would serve both ends,” the court stated.
On November 5, hearing a petition filed by Shetty, another bench of Karnataka High Court had refused to interfere with the FIR against him for alleged extortion.
The HC bench, however, asked the Bengaluru Crime Branch police to return the equipment seized from the channel following the FIR, which had led to Power TV being forced off air between September 29 and October 7. The court also said that the police cannot block social media channels of Power TV on the grounds of investigation, as this obstructs the everyday work of the channel.
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