New Delhi: A large team of Maharashtra Police arrested Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami Wednesday morning in a 2018 case of alleged abetment to suicide.
In episode 610 of ‘Cut The Clutter’, ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief explained the different angles involved in the controversial arrest — the Shiv Sena-BJP fight, politics, principles of journalism, policing and law.
Gupta noted that the case against Goswami is not about anything he did journalistically, but is a personal crime.
“There is an aggrieved party at the other end, who are the wife and daughter of a person who committed suicide along with his mother,” he said.
Anvay Naik, a 53-year-old interior designer, ran a company called Concorde Designs Pvt Ltd. In May 2018, he was found hanging in his house in Alibaug and his mother was found strangled to death. The police later found a suicide note, in which Naik had claimed that Goswami and two others — Feroz Shaikh of IcastX/Skimedia, a media services firm, and Niteesh Sarda of Smartwork, which provides “flexible workspaces” — owed him a total of Rs 5.4 crore.
This led to an abetment to suicide case being filed under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code.
However, in April 2019, the Raigad Police said there was no evidence in the case and a local court allowed the case to be closed.
Political feud between BJP & Shiv Sena
In 2019, BJP was in power in Maharashtra and the government was led by Devendra Fadnavis.
“There was always this question as to whether the government had been too hasty in burying this case,” Gupta said.
While Shiv Sena and BJP contested together in the subsequent assembly polls in 2019, they split over the chief minister seat.
In May, Naik’s daughter met Nationalist Congress Party leader Anil Deshmukh, who is also Maharashtra’s home minister, and said that justice had not been delivered and that these entities had led her father and grandmother to suicide.
Deshmukh then asked the CID to reopen the case. However, Raigad Police Wednesday said Goswami’s arrest wasn’t based on the CID investigation. The police had evidently reopened the case after going to the local court.
“So a prominent face in the media, who might have been the darling of the establishment earlier, was now no longer the darling of the establishment in the state now. That is the nub of the politics here,” Gupta said.
Journalists have been charged under sedition, official secrets act, incitement to riots and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in the past, noted Gupta.
“In our courts, it is difficult to get an FIR or a case withdrawn even when no evidence is found. So then the process is used as punishment. This was started by the Uttar Pradesh government, and has opened the floodgates ever since,” he said.
However, he added, Goswami is not a victim without protection.
“You’ve had a historic situation where a journalist is complaining of harassment by the state. And such a journalist is being backed in public by tough tweets by the Home Minister, Finance Minister, External Affairs Minister and the top political brass of the country.”
Arnab Goswami caught in ugly blood feud
“Goswami is today the victim of a fight between the central government and the Shiv Sena-led government in Maharashtra,” Gupta said.
This feud between the BJP and the Shiv Sena goes back to the Sushant Singh Rajput case.
Arnab Goswami and Republic TV made the Sushant Singh Rajput case into a very big story and it played into Bihar’s politics.
The central government and the Bihar government, which is a BJP-allied government, intervened in the case.
“Something truly remarkable happened in India’s constitutional, federal and jurisprudential history that a case was registered in Bihar, an alleged murder case, when the state had no jurisdiction in the place where the crime actually occurred,” Gupta said.
In this case, the Centre and the state colluded and asked Supreme Court if the case could be transferred to the CBI and the top court granted it. The central agencies Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) came into play then. Actor Rhea Chakraborty and her brother were arrested and denied bail for a long time.
More rumours began to spread including those related to Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray. And all of this then escalated into a proper blood feud.
Goswami is now caught between a central government that detests the Maharashtra government and a state government that is being led by a political party that has only one essential skill — street-fighting, Gupta said.