Supreme Court grants interim bail to Arnab Goswami in 2018 abetment to suicide case
A two-judge bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee pulled up the Maharashtra government over the TV anchor's arrest as they heard the petition through video conferencing.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted interim bail to Republic TV's editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami and two others in a 2018 abetment to suicide case.
A two-judge bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee pulled up the Maharashtra government over the TV anchor's arrest as they heard the petition through video-conferencing. Goswami and two others were arrested last week in connection with suicide of architect Anvay Naik and his mother.
According to Bar&Bench, the court held that the Bombay High Court erred by not granting bail and ordered that Goswami and the two other accused be released on interim bail on a bond of Rs 50,000.
The court directed the Mumbai police commissioner to ensure the order is complied with immediately.
Justice Chandrachud: we hold HC was incorrect in not granting bail. Arnab Goswami and two other accused be released on interim bail on a bond of Rs 50,000. Commissioner of Police is directed to ensure order is followed immediately.
Bail granted to #ArnabGoswami
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) November 11, 2020
As per news agency PTI, the apex court questioned the Maharashtra government and said that it would be a travesty of justice if personal liberty of a person is curtailed.
The bench said if state governments target individuals, they must realise that there is an apex court to protect the liberty of citizens.
The top court expressed concern over state governments targeting some individuals on the basis of ideology and difference of opinion.
"We are seeing case after case where high courts are not granting bail and failing to protect personal liberty of people," the bench said while hearing Goswami's plea.
The bench asked Maharashtra whether there was any need for custodial interrogation of Goswami, who is the editor-in-chief of Republic TV, saying the issue pertains to personal liberty.
It observed that Indian democracy is extraordinarily resilient and the Maharashtra government must ignore all this (Arnab's taunt on TV).
"Whatever be his ideology, least I don't even watch his channel, but if in this case constitutional court's do not interfere today, we are travelling the path of destruction undeniably," Justice Chandrachud said, adding, "the point is can you deny personal liberty of a person on these allegations."
"If the government targets individuals on this basis...You may not like television channels but this should not happen," the apex court said.
The bench observed that assuming the FIR is gospel truth but that is a matter of investigation.
"Is not paying up money abetment to suicide? It will be a travesty of justice if bail is not granted while FIR is pending," the bench told senior advocate Kapil Sibal who was appearing for the state.
"'A' does not pay money to 'B', and is this the case of abetment of suicide? If the high court don't act in matters like this, there will be complete destruction of personal liberty. We are deeply concerned for this. If we don't act in matters like this then it will be very disturbing, "the court said.
Justice Chandrachud observed that courts are being attacked for judgments delivered by them and said, "I often ask my law clerk and they say that Sir, please don't look at tweets."
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Goswami, referred to various cases lodged against him and the channel and alleged that the Maharashtra government is targeting him.
"This is not an ordinary case and the Bombay High Court being a constitutional court should have taken note of the incidents. Is this a case where Arnab Goswami is put in Taloja Jail with hardened criminals," Salve asked.
"I would urge the case to be transferred to the CBI and punish him if he is guilty. What will happen if a person is granted ad-interim bail," he said.
Sibal referred to the facts of the case and said that details of investigation conducted in the matter are not before the apex court and if it intervenes at this stage, it would set a dangerous precedent.
Senior lawyer Amit Desai, also appearing for the state, said this is not a case where the court should exercise its extraordinary jurisdiction to grant bail at interim stage and argued that the state's ability to investigate a criminal case has to be respected.
The three accused were arrested by Alibaug police in Maharashtra's Raigad district on 4 November in connection with the suicide of architect-interior designer Anvay Naik and his mother in 2018 over alleged non-payment of dues by companies of the accused.
The high court, while rejecting the interim bail pleas of Goswami and two other accused, had said, "No case has been made out for us (court) to exercise our extraordinary jurisdiction".
Apart from seeking interim bail, the journalist and other accused had also sought direction from the high court for staying the investigation into the case and quash the FIR against them.
The high court will hear their pleas seeking to quash the FIR on 10 December.
Goswami was arrested on 4 November from his Lower Parel residence in Mumbai and taken to Alibaug in neighbouring Raigad district. He and the two other accused were later produced before a magistrate who refused to send them in police custody and remanded them in judicial custody till 18 November.
Goswami was initially kept at a local school which is designated as a COVID-19 quarantine centre for the Alibaug prison. He was on Sunday shifted to the Taloja jail in Raigad district after allegedly being found using a mobile phone while in judicial custody.
With inputs from PTI
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