New Delhi: The Bombay High Court Thursday did not give any interim relief to Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, but agreed to hear Friday his habeas corpus petition against his arrest in connection with a 2018 abetment to suicide case.
A bench of Justices S.S. Shinde and M.S. Karnik, initially keen to take up the matter after vacations, observed it cannot issue interim orders without hearing the Maharashtra Police and the complainant.
Friday is the last working day before the high court closes for a fortnight-long Diwali break during which only vacation benches will sit to hear urgent matters.
The court issued notices to the state and also the complainant, Andya Naik, asking them to respond to Goswami’s habeas corpus petition.
Goswami was arrested Wednesday morning in connection with the suicide of Naik’s father, Anvay Naik, and is in judicial custody for 14 days.
Andya has also filed a petition before the HC, seeking re-investigation of the “A Summary” (closure report) filed in connection with her father’s suicide case, which will also be heard Friday.
The high court brushed aside Goswami’s protest to Naik’s petition, contending she should approach the magistrate.
Senior advocate Abad Ponda, appearing for Goswami, attacked the Mumbai Police for undertaking investigation in a closed case. He termed the arrest illegal and urged the bench to grant ad-interim relief to the journalist.
Earlier in the day, Goswami withdrew his bail application that was filed before the Alibaugh trial court.
‘Cops can’t resurrect a dead case without altering closure report’
Ponda argued the police could not have commenced a new investigation after re-opening the case as this was contrary to well-settled principles of criminal law. He informed the bench that the police had already submitted a closure report in the case, which was duly accepted by the magistrate in 2019.
The senior counsel insisted that filing of the closure report is like “nail in the coffin” that can be removed through an appropriate court order. A suo motu reopening of the case shows the police have scant respect for the magistrate, who accepted the closure report, the counsel said.
Also, the police had intimated the magistrate on 15 October 2020 about reopening the case, but no permission was granted to them on their application.
“The court records are ‘seen and filed’. There was no permission, no nod for further investigation,” Ponda added.
“The police suo motu intervened in the matter, for obvious reasons that are taking place in Maharashtra,” he argued.
Expounding the legal principles involved, Ponda said the police cannot “resurrect a dead case” without altering the closure report.
‘Respondents are entitled to prior notice’
Senior advocate Harish Salve, who argued briefly for Goswami, said the issue before the court concerned the liberty of a citizen.
Seeking his release as an ad-interim measure, Salve said: “Please release this man. He is a journalist. Will heavens fall if he is given interim release? I do not understand, with due respect.”
However, in response, Justice Shinde said: “We can give reasons for not granting ad-interim relief.”
Ponda, who resumed his arguments, described Goswami’s arrest as shocking and illegal. “Even a second’s illegal detention cannot be countenanced by a constitutional court. I should be given an ad-interim order of release,” he contended.
But the bench remained firm with its view that the other side has to be heard before it issues any order on Goswami’s petition.
“The respondents are entitled to notice and we will have to issue notice to the state,” it told Ponda.