Still No Interim Relief for Arnab, HC to Hear Arrest Pleas on Sat

Goswami’s lawyer Harish Salve argued that the court should grant him bail as the whole case is an abuse of power.

Updated
India
5 min read
Arnab Goswami
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The Bombay High Court on Friday, 6 November once again declined to grant immediate interim relief to Arnab Goswami over his arrest by the Maharashtra Police for alleged abetment of suicide, but will consider the issue again on Saturday, after hearing from the state and the police.

The bench of Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik heard further arguments by the Republic TV editor-in-chief’s lawyers, senior advocates Harish Salve and Abad Ponda, about why his arrest showed “malice in fact” by the state and was an “abuse of power”.

Goswami has filed petitions challenging his arrest and asking for the FIR against him, for alleged abetment of Anvay Naik’s suicide in May 2018, to be quashed. While the matter is being heard, his lawyers had sought interim relief from the court on to at least be released on bail while the petitions are heard.

The judges however reiterated what they said on Thursday, that they would need to hear from the respondents before they could grant him relief. Senior advocates Amit Desai, Kapil Sibal and Shirish Gupte are expected to argue for the Maharashtra Police and the state government.

The matter will be taken up at 12 noon on Saturday, 7 November.

The Maharashtra Police arrested Goswami for allegedly abetting the suicide of a 53-year-old interior designer Anvay Naik and his mother Kumud Naik in 2018.

In a suicide note, Naik said that he and his mother were in financial distress caused because large payments owed to his company Concorde Designs Pvt Ltd, had not been paid by three clients, including Arnab Goswami/Republic TV. The amount owed is said to be Rs 83 lakh.

What Did Harish Salve Argue for Arnab Goswami?

Salve and Ponda began by taking the judge through the 4 November order of the Alibaug magistrate who had, while sending Goswami to judicial custody for 14 days, also noted that the arrest of the Republic supremo appeared to be “illegal”.

This was because the police had not obtained an order from a magistrate to reopen the investigation, which had been closed by a magistrate on 16 April 2019 following the submission of an ‘A’ Summary closure report by the local Raigad police back then.

The magistrate’s order from 4 November also mentioned that the police did not seem to have established a direct link between the deaths of Anvay and Kumud Naik, and the accused, including Arnab Goswami.

Salve then went on to argue that the Maharashtra government was “acting in malice”, and pointed to the numerous other cases that have recently been used to “stultify” Arnab, including the FIR against him for his coverage of the Palghar lynching case (which the Bombay HC had stayed earlier) as well as the TRP manipulation case where Police Commissioner Parambir Singh had said Republic was the main accused.

The research company at the heart of the fake TRP case, Hansa Research Group, has just filed a writ petition in the high court against the Mumbai Police’s Crime Branch for harassment to make a false statement. Their petition was also listed in the high court on Friday, but will need to be taken up at a later time.

Salve noted that the Supreme Court had just issued a contempt notice to the Assistant Secretary of the Maharashtra Assembly for his notice to Goswami over his coverage of the Assembly. This was part of the larger case involving Goswami and a privilege motion by the Maharashtra Assembly to him for his comments about CM Uddhav Thackeray.

The text of the Assembly’s debates, Salve argued, showed that members of the current Maharashtra government had said they would reopen the case and arrest Goswami for abetment of Anvay Naik’s suicide, and that the case was intrinsically linked to their anger with Goswami for his comments about the CM and other politicians.

Coming back to the observations of the magistrate in the remand order, he noted that contrary to what Shiv Sena politician Sanjay Raut had said, just because somebody is named in a suicide note, doesn’t meant that they have to be put in jail. There needs to be a “direct and proximate” conduct by the accused that led to the suicide.

In the current case, however, there was no personal relationship, only a commercial one, and “no person superficially familiar with law would hold the accused in this case prima facie liable for abetment of suicide.”

He quoted the Gurcharan Singh judgment of the Supreme Court to say that there needs to have been an “active or direct act which led the deceased to commit suicide, seeing no option, and that act must have been intended to push the deceased into such a position that he committed suicide.”

The senior advocate argued that the Bombay High Court, as a constitutional court, had the power to grant bail under Article 226 of the Constitution, given the whole picture here, which showed the Maharashtra administration was acting with malice and abusing its power.

“What is the harm if this gentleman is released on bail? From 2019 to date, nothing has happened. What will happen for next two weeks? Unless grant of bail will derail investigation and hamper the state, bail should be granted. Whether or not he goes and screams on TV, brings out more allegations against Parambir Singh, is not relevant.”
Harish Salve to the Bombay High Court

Why Was the Hearing Deferred on Thursday?

The bench had refused to grant interim relief on Thursday as they could not grant this without hearing from the state and other respondents including the informant in the case (Anvay Naik’s wife, Akshata) which could not happen on Thursday as notice of the pleas was only served on them too late.

The judges issued notice in the case after asking Goswami’s lawyers to serve the materials to the informant Akshata Naik, and said the matter would be taken up on Friday.

What did Goswami’s Lawyers Argue on Thursday?

Senior advocate Abad Ponda tried to convince the court that the entire reinvestigation of the case, which had been closed in April 2019, is illegal, and therefore Arnab’s continued detention is also illegal. As a result, he urged the court to grant interim bail to Goswami.

He noted that once the judicial magistrate in Raigad had accepted the police’s closure report on 16 April 2019, the police could not investigate the matter further without receiving the magistrate’s permission.

“If an ‘A’ Summary report exists on record, then can’t resurrect a dead man,” he argued. “Every step of the investigation from 15 October (when the police informed the magistrate they were looking into the matter again) including the arrest is illegal.”

Ponda observed that Akshata Naik had just filed a petition in the Bombay High Court that the same judges would be considering, in which she had challenged the order to close the investigation in April 2019. This showed, he said, that the other side understood that there was no way an investigation could take place at this time without a direction from the courts.

Harish Salve urged the court to keep in mind the numerous cases against Goswami and Republic by the Maharashtra administration, and said they “could not ignore” the implications of how Goswami was being hounded. “There is no reason or ground to arrest him and so he should be given interim bail.”

(If you feel suicidal or know someone in distress, please reach out to them with kindness and call these numbers of local emergency services, helplines, and mental health NGOs.)

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