Mumbai: Arnab Goswami’s arrest by the police in Raigad district Wednesday, for allegedly abetting the suicide of 53-year-old interior designer Anvay Naik and his mother Kumud Naik in 2018, has put the spotlight on the sheer number of cases filed against Republic TV and its editor-in-chief by the Maharashtra government.
The case had been closed by the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP-Shiv Sena government, but its successor, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government comprising the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress, reopened it. Five other cases have been registered against Goswami and Republic TV since the MVA government came to power last year.
This has prompted the opposition BJP to allege “police excesses” — it has lashed out at the MVA for creating a “situation like the Emergency”, while the ruling parties maintain that the police is simply acting on evidence.
ThePrint details the five cases against Arnab Goswami and his channel.
Alibaug suicide case
Anvay Naik, managing director of Concorde Designs Private Limited, and his mother Kumud were found dead in their home in Kavir village of Alibaug in May 2018.
A suicide letter that the police recovered named the owners of three companies — Arnab Goswami of Republic TV, Feroz Shaikh of IcastX/Skimedia and Neetish Sarda of Smartworks — saying they owed Naik’s firm Rs 83 lakh, Rs 4 crore and Rs 55 lakh respectively. Anvay Naik purportedly wrote in the note that he and his mother decided to take the extreme step as the owners of the three companies did not clear the payments.
The case was closed citing lack of evidence in April 2019, and reopened under the MVA government last month. Goswami was then arrested from his residence in Mumbai’s Worli by the Raigad police Wednesday.
Assaulting a woman constable
In the process of his arrest for abetment of suicide, Arnab Goswami allegedly assaulted a woman constable and resisted arrest. Therefore, the Mumbai Police has booked Goswami under Indian Penal Code sections related to assault or using criminal force to deter a public servant from discharging duty, intentional insult to provoke breach of peace, and criminal intimidation.
The FIR also mentions his wife, Samyabrata Goswami, their son and two others. Arnab Goswami has, in turn, alleged that the police assaulted him.
Inciting disaffection among police force
Last month, the Mumbai Police booked senior editors and newsroom staff of Republic TV for airing news about a “revolt” within the force against its commissioner Param Bir Singh.
The FIR involves sections of the Police (Incitement to Disaffection) Act, 1922, and claims the editors and staff “attempted to incite disaffection” among members of the police force and defamed the Mumbai Police.
The police has been questioning senior editors of Republic TV in this regard.
The TRP scam
Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh held a press conference on 8 October to claim that his department had discovered a “racket” of private channels allegedly manipulating their Television Rating Points (TRPs) to get more revenue.
Singh alleged that the owners of Republic TV, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema were involved in the TRP scam.
While the FIR registered in the case does not name Arnab Goswami or Republic TV, the police maintains that investigations and statements of some of the accused have pointed towards Republic TV’s involvement in bribing households to watch the channel and rig TRPs.
So far, the police has arrested 11 accused in the case and the police have summoned the senior leadership of ARG Outlier Media Asianet News Private Limited, which owns and manages Republic TV.
Palghar mob lynching incident
Republic TV’s coverage of the Palghar mob lynching incident attracted a number of FIRs across the country. The show had evoked strong reactions on YouTube.
On 16 April, three Mumbai residents — two Hindu sadhus and their driver — who were on their way to Silvassa in the union territory of Dadra & Nagar Haveli, were lynched by local residents in Gadchinchale village of Palghar district of Maharashtra, on the suspicion that they were thieves.
The Mumbai Police sent a show cause notice to Arnab Goswami, saying his comments could create communal disharmony and hatred between Hindus and Muslims, and asking why a bond of good behaviour should not be taken from him.
Goswami also accused Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi of getting the sadhus killed and sending reports to Italy about how she has managed to bump off Hindus in states where “she governs”. This attracted at least 15 FIRs across the country, filed mostly by Congress workers. Two of those 15 FIRs were filed in Maharashtra.
Subsequently, activist Nilesh Navlakha filed a complaint on 8 May under sections of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, against Goswami for stirring up communal hatred and divide on his news channel.
Migrant workers’ gathering in Bandra
On 14 April, under the first nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, a crowd of migrant workers gathered outside Mumbai’s Bandra railway station to demand transportation arrangements to return to their homes.
Goswami, in his show, allegedly questioned the need for a large gathering near a mosque, breaking all norms of physical distancing, and hinted that the incident was a conspiracy by the Muslim community.
Based on a complaint, the Mumbai Police filed an FIR against Goswami for trying to spread hatred against the Muslim community, and booked him under various sections of the Indian Penal Code.