Arnab Goswami at Alibagh Court in Mumbai on 4 November
Arnab Goswami at Alibaug court in Raigad district on 4 November | ANI Photo
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday granted bail to Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami in a 2018 case of abetting suicide.

A vacation bench of justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee gave the order on Goswami’s petition challenging the 9 November Bombay High Court order declining interim bail in the Anvay Naik-Kumud Naik suicide.

The top court also granted bail to two others, Feroze Shaikh and Neetish Sarda, who had challenged their arrest in the case and sought interim bail.

The Supreme Court directed the accused not to make any attempt to tamper with evidence or influence witnesses, and told each of them to execute a personal bond of Rs 50,000 for release on interim bail. It also directed the Mumbai Police to ensure compliance of the order to release the accused forthwith.

A detailed judgement recording the reasons for the order will be released later, it added.


Also read: Nation wants to know if there is more to Republic TV besides Arnab Goswami


Bombay HC’s error

During the four hour-long hearing, the bench of Justice Chandrachud and Justice Banerjee expressed concern over state governments targeting individuals on the basis of ideology and differences of opinion, and made strong observations over the failure of the high courts to protect personal liberty of individuals, forcing citizens to approach the top court for relief.

The court also raised doubts over commercial disputes attracting a suicide abetment charge, as in the case of the Naiks’ double suicide, which took place in Alibaug in 2018.

The court held that the Bombay HC had made an error in rejecting the application for grant of interim bail. The high court, in its 9 November order, had held that no case was made out to invoke its extraordinary writ jurisdiction to release the three accused, including Arnab Goswami.

The court had said the accused had an alternate remedy under law to approach the sessions court and seek bail, and also rejected the argument that the police could not have undertaken the probe because it had already filed a closure report in the case.

Before the top court, Goswami’s lawyer, senior advocate Harish Salve, pressed for relief on the grounds that the rule is to grant bail to accused persons, not jail.

Justice Chandrachud, who was more vocal during the hearing, lamented high courts not giving bail, leaving people languishing in jail for months. This, he said, had burdened the top court with bail cases.

“If constitutional courts don’t protect liberty, who will?” asked Justice Chandrachud.

However, he orally observed that he disagreed with Goswami’s position that police cannot investigate the case further if a closure report has been filed in a case where there is an offence but evidence has not been traced.

Don’t watch his channel if you don’t like it’

Justice Chandrachud shared his “deep concern” at the growing trend of states “targeting” those who follow a different ideology than that of the government.

He recalled a case from West Bengal where a girl, who tweeted that the coronavirus was not being dealt with, was issued a police notice. “They did this, saying we will show you reality,” he remarked.

According to the judge, Arnab Goswami cannot be punished or treated inhumanly merely because his style of presenting news does not suit the state government.

“Forget the way he screams and yells. I do not watch this news channel, but what concerns me is the value ascribed to human liberty. We are deeply concerned about it. Our democracy is extraordinary resilient and governments must ignore all this. This is not the basis on which elections are fought,” said the judge.

“If constitutional courts do not interfere today, then we are travelling the path of destruction, undeniably. We must send a message to the high courts today that please exercise your jurisdiction to uphold personal liberty,” Justice Chandrachud said.

He spoke of the criticism judges face over Twitter for their judgments, which he said the courts overlook.

“You do not watch a channel if you do not like it. I myself prefer to cuddle with a good book,” he told Kapil Sibal, the senior advocate appearing for Maharashtra government and the state’s police.


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


‘Why is Arnab’s matter being fast-tracked?’

Goswami, who is currently lodged in Navi Mumbai’s Taloja jail, has called his arrest and “illegal” detention a violation of his right to life and personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, 1950.

His legal team filed the appeal before the top court Tuesday morning, even as his bail plea at the Alibaug sessions court was pending. The same trial court Tuesday also reserved orders in the revision application filed by Maharashtra Police against the magistrate’s order, denying the investigating team Goswami’s police custody.

Sibal urged the court not to intervene at this stage, particularly when the Alibaug sessions court was set to hear Goswami’s bail plea Thursday. He requested the bench to wait for the outcome.

“Why do you presume that the sessions court will not pass an order which is fair and just? Final decision is coming tomorrow,” he told the Supreme Court bench.

Sibal drew a parallel with the Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan, who was arrested while he was on his way to Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, to report on the alleged gang-rape and murder of a woman. Kappan’s petition before the top court was not heard, and the bench before which the matter was listed asked him to approach the trial court, Sibal pointed out.

Senior advocate Amit Desai, appearing for the state police, discouraged the court from quashing the FIR at this stage and staying Goswami’s arrest, as it would disrupt the powers of investigation, which, he added, can be disastrous.

He argued against the process that was followed by Goswami and others to seek bail.

“Why meddle with the hierarchy? Why not hear what the state has to say?” Desai argued, pointing out that Goswami had never challenged the magistrate order remanding him to judicial custody.

He even questioned Goswami for not moving the court in 2018 to quash the FIR.

Desai also had reservations about Goswami’s case being fast-tracked in courts, while matters where people are languishing in jail are still in queue.

However, Justice Chandrachud, who agreed with Desai’s submission that the case deserved fair investigation, asserted it was not a case for custodial questioning.

“Normally, when a commercial enterprise is handed out, the labour contractor is responsible for execution and you can’t catch the man at the top — because the contract was not executed basis abetment to suicide,” he said.

The judge reminded the counsel that the court was dealing with the personal liberty of a person. “It will be travesty of justice if bail is not granted, while FIR is pending,” Justice Chandrachud said.


Also read: The 6 cases filed against Arnab Goswami & Republic TV in Maharashtra since 2018


 

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18 COMMENTS

  1. SC has quite rightly upheld individual’s liberty in this order But we can ask whether the High Courts and SC differ so radically where civil liberties are concerned . Is SC the last remaining protector of liberties ? Will every such case have to go up to the SC?

    is understanding of the Constitution so different between HC and SC judges ?

  2. Giving arnab bail is good in view of infependent journalism.
    But if he continue insulting high profile figures of community,finally people will punish him if the court couldnot.

  3. Hilarious! The way the gentlemen pontificate!! While a 82 year old waits in the jail for 2 weeks just for his request to be considered for being provided a sipper and a straw, as he suffers from Parkinson’s and has problem drinking from glass.

    Anyway, now since they are there, can we expect them to take cognizance now and either schedule the pending bail applications early or have them prioritized at the respective HCs?

  4. Goes on to prove that money and power can buy anything in this country.
    Journalist are shot dead in UP and arrested and thrown in prisons and the “honourable” judges have no time to hear their cases.
    Looks like some more rajya Sabha seats are going to be filled with retired judges.

  5. It’s heartening to see SC suddenly getting bothered again about personal liberty of Indian citizens. Kudos to them. Not too long ago people have struggled to get their habeaus corpus pleas listed below the court for months or have received gratuitous advice that the person concerned will be safer in the jail. How does this stark difference in court utterances and priorities reflect on the prestige of the court is anybody’s guess.

  6. Dear Shekar Gupta,
    Where is your journalism when such atrocities are happening to your own colleague in the Industry? I had huge respect for you. Not any more. You are not the supreme court.

  7. The entire “The Print” team must be so disappointed that Arnab is given bail, especially rabid fascists like Shivam Vij and Jyoti Malhotra.

  8. I am sure there are n number of cases waiting for a hearing on the Apex court and many of them be be due for hearing after months. But our beloved Arnab was a VVIP whose bail was important as he is the country’s most heard media anchor. Let us thank all those people behind him to get a quick interim bail.
    A big thank to the judges of the SC they could make time for such an order.

  9. Happy to know that the honorable SC talking og personal liberty.But one wonders. If personal liberty counts only in case of sarkari journalist,not in the cases of journalist of Kerala and umpteen others.
    Hats off to the judiciary.

  10. It is a landmark judgement. The verdict enunciates that personal liberty, which is hallmark of any democracy cannot be compromised under technicality of law. The judgment also criticizes denial of bail by Bombay High Court. Abetment to suicide case cannot be easily proved in a court of law. Till now, the Maharashtra government has not come forward with any cogent reason why a closed case is being reinvestigated. Furthermore, the defendants were not given any opportunity to present their side of the story before such drastic action was taken. As Harish Salve rightly observed cause for abetment has to be direct and proximate. Prima facie both these criteria are absent in the instant case. However, if according to the government the case was shoddily investigated in the past what action has been taken against the negligent officials.? If after election victories, the new governments start digging up old cases to settle political score, it would be a travesty of justice. One must however, caution Arnab Goswami to learn lessons from the episode and moderate his style of journalism. The abusive, arrogant and loud style of journalism serves no purpose and instead creates unnecessary enmity and negative perceptions.

  11. Yes. Thanks to the SC & honourable justice, Chandrachud. This is what the Shekhar Ji has told earlier in his article & cut the clutter as well for a moment those who were witnessing the arguments & Justice Chandrachud’s observation might have confused whether they are watching the ‘cut the clutter’ as all the relevant questions were asked same that of Shekher ji has even cautioned the MVA government against their futile exercise.
    HC’s must take note on the strictures passed on by the SC pertaining to personal liberty & act accordingly.
    Thanks
    Nagesh Rao

  12. There is some hope left……

    People know that a Patriot was being mistreated….

    These fools in power will never be forgiven by people in Maharashtra.

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