The Indian Supreme Court on Wednesday has released owner and editor of Republic TV Arnab Goswami on interim bail.
A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee ordered the release of Goswami and his other co-accused on interim bail, after hearing the appeal against the Bombay High Court order denying Goswami interim relief.
“The [Bombay] High Court was in error in rejecting the application for grant of interim bail,” the bench held.
The Apex Court ordered that a bond of IRs 50,000 is to be executed before the jail superintendent and asked the Raigad Police to execute the release order immediately, The Wire reported.
The Supreme Court, after a daylong hearing, said that a detailed judgment will be “released later.”
The bench expressed displeasure at the Bombay High Court order denying Goswami relief, saying that constitutional courts have the duty to intervene when personal liberty is at stake. “SC is unhappy that HCs, which are constitutional courts, are not doing enough in matters where personal liberty is denied…,” the Indian Express quoted Justice Chandrachud as saying. “If this court were not to interfere today, we are travelling on a path of destruction of personal liberty undeniably… If state govt’s target individuals in this manner, let’s send out a message that SC is there.”
Justice Chandrachud also wondered if abetment to suicide charges can be used only based on non-payment of dues, if there is no personal relationship between to the two individuals. “To make out a case of abetment, there has to be active incitement and encouragement. If money is owed to a person, is that a case of abetment to suicide? A owes money to B. B due to financial stress commit suicide. Will it attract offence under section 306 IPC? We are dealing with personal liberty here and because he was owed money, Naik committed suicide due to financial stress. Is this a case for custodial interrogation?” the judge said, according to LiveLaw.
Goswami is an unabashed supporter of the BJP's union government led by Narendra Modi and consequentially a vehement critic of Shiv Sena led Maharashtra government following the bitter fallout between the two party after contesting the assembly polls as allies. Goswami had confronted the Maharashtra government in his belligerent style about the handling of the suicide of actor Sushant Singh Rajput in tandem with the union government that tried to undermine the state government in investigations on the case.
Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Goswami, argued that the Maharashtra Police did not really need custodial interrogation of the Republic TV anchor, and only wanted to ‘teach him a lesson’. “Allegation (against Goswami) is about withholding money which can be ascertained from documents. What’s the need for custodial interrogation? It’s just a smokescreen to teach the man a lesson.”
Salve alleged that the Maharashtra government is wrongly using powers to re-investigate the case. “The rule is bail, not jail. Not even a day more should he be in jail,” Goswami’s lawyer said.
The bench told Kapil Sibal, appearing for Maharashtra, that the state government should not respond to taunts on TV. “Our democracy is extraordinarily strong and resilient. Governments should ignore tweets and move on. This is not the basis on which elections are fought…If you don’t like a channel then don’t watch it,” Justice Chandrachud said.
The Bombay High Court had on Monday (November 9) refused interim relief to Goswami, saying he could approach the sessions court for regular bail as no case was made out for an extraordinary hearing. The same day, Goswami filed a bail application before the sessions court at Alibaug in Maharashtra’s Raigad district.
Goswami and two others – Feroze Shaikh and Nitish Sarda – were arrested by Alibaug police on November 4 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.
After his arrest from his residence in Mumbai, Goswami was taken to Alibaug, where the chief judicial magistrate refused to remand him in police custody. The magistrate’s court remanded Goswami and the two others in judicial custody till November 18.