Courts across the country “should be alive to…the need to ensure the proper enforcement of criminal law on the one hand and the need, on the other, of ensuring that the law does not become a ruse for targeted harassment”, the Supreme Court said Friday while concluding that the Bombay High Court had “abdicated” its responsibility while dealing Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami’s plea in the Anway Naik abetment to suicide case.
“Liberty across human eras is as tenuous as tenuous can be. Liberty survives by the vigilance of her citizens, on the cacophony of the media and in the dusty corridors of courts alive to the rule of (and not by) law. Yet, much too often, liberty is a casualty when one of these components is found wanting”, a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee said in its detailed order on Goswami’s plea challenging the HC order denying bail to him in the case.
Goswami had earlier moved the HC seeking quashing of the FIR in the case and seeking interim bail.
Taking serious exception to the HC order, the SC said “whether the appellant (Goswami) has established a case for quashing the FIR is something on which the High Court will take a final view when the proceedings are listed before it but we are clearly of the view that in failing to make even a prima facie evaluation of the FIR, the High Court abdicated its constitutional duty and function as a protector of liberty.
Courts must be alive to the need to safeguard the public interest in ensuring that the due enforcement of criminal law is not obstructed. The fair investigation of crime is an aid to it. Equally it is the duty of courts across the spectrum –the district judiciary, the High Courts and the Supreme Court –to ensure that the criminal law does not become a weapon for the selective harassment of citizens. Courts should be alive to both ends of the spectrum – the need to ensure the proper enforcement of criminal law on the one hand and the need, on the other, of ensuring that the law does not become a ruse for targeted harassment”, Justice Chandrachud writing for the Bench said.
On November 11, the SC had given bail to Goswami and two others who were arrested by the Mumbai police in connection with the case notwithstanding stiff opposition from the Maharashatra government.
Friday’s detailed order said the bail will continue till the HC disposes of the matter and for four more weeks thereafter “should it become necessary for all or any of them to take further recourse to their remedies in accordance with law”.