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Reasons why Supreme Court granted bail to Arnab Goswami

Supreme Court took a dim view of Bombay HC's decision to deny bail to Arnab Goswami, saying high courts should not forego their duty, leaving apex court to intervene at all times.

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday released detailed reasons for granting bail to Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami and two others on 11 November in a 2018 abetment to suicide case.

In its judgment, a bench comprising Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Indira Banerjee looked into the contents of the FIR as well, and observed, “Prima facie, on the application of the test which has been laid down by this court in a consistent line of authority…  it cannot be said that the appellant was guilty of having abetted the suicide within the meaning of Section 306 of the IPC.”

The court also took a dim view of the Bombay High Court’s decision to deny bail to Goswami two days before the apex court did. By not having conducted a prima facie evaluation of the FIR, “the high court abdicated its constitutional duty and function as a protector of liberty”, the court said.

“…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,” it added. 

It, however, clarified that these observations are “prima facie at this stage”, noting that the high court is yet to take up Goswami’s petition for quashing the FIR against him. 

“The appellants are residents of India and do not pose a flight risk during the investigation or the trial. There is no apprehension of tampering of evidence or witnesses. Taking these factors into consideration, the order dated 11 November 2020 envisaged the release of the appellants on bail,” the court added. 

The 55-page judgment, authored by Justice Chandrachud, also cited his own dissenting opinion in the Romila Thapar case, where the demand for an SIT probe into the Bhima-Koregaon arrests was rejected

In his dissenting opinion, Justice Chandrachud had observed that the “basic entitlement of every citizen who is faced with allegations of criminal wrongdoing, is that the investigative process should be fair”.

Goswami was arrested by Maharashtra Police on 4 November and sent to 14 days in judicial custody the same day by the chief judicial magistrate of the Alibaug trial court. 

He had then approached the Bombay High Court, questioning police’s decision to re-investigate the case, citing a closure report filed in 2019 that he said was accepted by the magistrate. 

He also said police did not take the court’s permission to re-investigate the case, and, therefore, challenged his arrest as “illegal”. He has alleged that his arrest was a result of “vendetta politics” for “his news coverage”.  

The high court, however, refused to grant him interim bail in the case on 9 November, while clarifying that he would be free to approach the sessions court for bail. If such an application is filed, it should be decided within four days, the court said. 

Goswami had then filed a regular bail application before the Alibaug sessions court, but also approached the Supreme Court challenging the high court’s denial of interim bail to him. 

His main petition, demanding quashing of the FIR and his arrest, remains pending in the high court. 

The Supreme Court has said that the interim protection against arrest granted to Goswami shall continue till four weeks after the disposal of proceedings before the Bombay High Court, in case the parties need to challenge the high court decision.

Also Read: ‘You can’t touch Republic Network’ — Arnab Goswami dares Uddhav Thackeray after getting bail

‘Liberty has been a casualty’

In its judgment, the Supreme Court has said that the high court should have been “cognisant of the specific ground which was raised before it by the appellant that he was being made a target as a part of a series of occurrences which have been taking place since April 2020”.

“The specific case of the appellant is that he has been targeted because his opinions on his television channel are unpalatable to authority,” it noted.

It then ruled that while hearing a petition to quash an FIR, if the high court finds that no case is made out prima facie, then it can use its powers under Article 226 of the Constitution to grant bail to the accused. 

The judgment also listed factors that high courts must consider while dealing with a bail application filed under Article 226 of the Constitution, which empowers high courts to issue certain writs. One of these conditions is to evaluate “whether prima facie the ingredients of the offence are made out, on the basis of the allegations as they stand, in the FIR”.

The apex court noted that the Bombay High Court had not undertaken an evaluation of whether there was a prima facie case. “In the meantime, liberty has been the casualty,” it said.

The Supreme Court then conducted a prima facie inquiry itself, and concluded that “a prima facie evaluation of the FIR does not establish the ingredients of the offence of abetment of suicide under Section 306 of the IPC”.

Also Read: Arnab Goswami’s swift bail should be the rule for undertrials. Not the exception

‘Basic rule is bail, not jail’

The court also referred to a landmark 1977 case to reiterate that the “basic rule of our criminal justice system is ‘bail, not jail’”.

It said high courts and district courts “must enforce this principle in practice, and not forego that duty, leaving this court to intervene at all times”.

Asserting that “liberty is not a gift for the few”, the court referred to data on pending bail applications in high courts and district courts across India. It then said that there is a need for courts to remedy the problem of bail applications not being heard with expedition.

The court said high courts get burdened when the district courts refuse to grant anticipatory bail or bail in deserving cases, and the Supreme Court gets burdened when the high court refuses such relief. 

Also Read: SC Bar Association head says instant listing of Arnab Goswami’s bail plea ‘deeply disturbing’


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  1. Have no comment excepting as follows:-
    1. Selective consideration of personal freedom.
    2. Wrong assessment that Arnab was not in a position of tampering with evidence. A person whose arrest creates an upheaval in central and UP cabinet is influential enough to tamper with evidence.
    3. Since his passport is not confiscated 0, Arnab with family can flee from the country.
    4. Why can’t the Honourable SC ask NIA court to be sensitive.
    5. Why the Honourable SC declare infamous Sedition act enacted by the British to oppress opposition ultra vire in present context? It is very much aware that the act has been copiously misused.
    6. Due to these actions and inaction a large section of population considers the courts including the apex court not to be neutral and not to be impartial.

  2. “…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,”
    “basic rule of our criminal justice system is ‘bail, not jail’”
    “liberty is not a gift for the few”
    Ask CJI to read all these statements again but slowly.

    • May not help. Remember the tweets from Shri Bhushan and a certain picture with “friend’s” expensive Bike in Nagpur.

      The gentlemen are now brazen about their intentions. Three noticeable recent events
      1. Indian VP recently reminded the judiciary not to overreach. Overreach?? Today? Maybe it was a euphemism to indicate to the tribe to lie low.
      2. The first among equals mentioned he is not interested in article 32 cases. Interesting. Better to make it clear in the constitution because this article cases only go to SC.
      3. The same gentleman gives a speech standing up for thre executive saying here are limits to free speech. Brilliant.

    • CJI is correct. India has good supreme court. In case of Bombay high Court there is lot to be desired.

      It is that High courts are packed with Indira Gandhi’s committed judges, particularly Bombay & Allahabad high courts. Only person whose civil liberty Bombay High Court wants to protect is Teesta Setalvad. The judges of Bombay high courts are so lazy they did not want to work overtime to clear the cases before them when Supreme Court ask them to clear backlog.

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