Abetment of Suicide Case: No Bail for Arnab Yet, HC Reserves Order

This was a rare hearing by the Bombay HC on a weekly holiday as normally courts remain closed during weekends.

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India
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Arnab Goswami.
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The Bombay High Court on Saturday, 7 November, reserved its order on the interim bail plea of Republic Television Editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, in the 2018 case of abetment to suicide of architect-interior designer Anvy Naik and his mother, ANI reported.

The high court also gave liberty to Goswami to file a bail plea in a lower court, directing the court to decide on his bail plea, if filed, within four days.

A division bench of Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik held a special sitting on Saturday as courts normally remain closed during weekends.

The court first heard from the lawyer of one of the co-accused in the case, Niteish Sarda, who, like Arnab Goswami, was named in Anvay Naik’s suicide note as having not paid large sums of money for work done by the Naiks. He alleged that his arrest is illegal, on similar lines as Goswami’s lawyers had argued over the course of Thursday and Friday.

Sarda’s lawyer, Vijay Aggarwal argued that the closure report stated that Anvay Naik and his mother’s death have no connection with the accused and there was no evidence to support the allegations in the FIR.

Bar and Bench quoted Sarda’s lawyer arguing, “I am a 27 yr old boy, my name is written as owner of company, I own only 2-3% stake in the company. I am straightaway arrested in a closed case. Since the FIR is challenged, request milords to grant me bail in the interim.” He also requested that the FIR be quashed and he be released as the Alibaug CJM’s order stated that the arrest was ‘illegal’.

The court pointed out that since there is provision of regular bail under section 439 C.R.PC, then why should the high court consider the bail plea at this time? The court also pointed out that this would undermine the authorities of lower courts, reported Bar and Bench, especially since the remand order being cited here had been challenged by the Maharashtra authorities in a revision application.

Appearing for the second accused in the case, Feroze Shaikh, Advocate Nikhil Mengde argued that if the police want to re-investigate the case, they have to approach a court of law with a report seeking permission, which was not taken.

“I have not applied for bail, because I am saying the arrest was itself illegal. The prayer of habeas corpus can be dropped,” he was quoted telling the court.

Anvay Naik’s Daughter Seeks Re-investigation

Appearing for Anvay Naik’s daughter Adnya Naik, Advocate Subodh Desai sought re-investigation in the matter and action against the officers “who did a miserable job of investigation” in the first instance, reported Bar and Bench.

Desai argued that his client received a letter from the DG Police in May 2020 informing them that the investigation was transferred to the Maharashtra CID. Till March of 2020, there was no communication on the FIR filed in 2018, he added.

“We come to know that the case is closed from Republic TV’s claims on their channel. We received the certified copies on the report only in May 2020. Court issues notice in the petition which is waived by the State,” he was quoted by Bar and Bench.

‘Arnab Goswami Not Under ‘Unlawful Custody’’

Arguing for the state, Advocate Amit Desai told the court that “Arnab Goswami is not under "unlawful custody". “He is under custody based on a judicial order,” he said according to Live Law.

Adding that the petitioners chose to withdraw their bail applications originally filed before the Magistrate, Desai argued that this was not the state’s fault. “We are not going to seek long adjournments. We are also conscious that personal liberties of citizens are involved,” he said.

Desai argued that the petitioner has efficacious remedy of seeking bail before a proper court. Even if a remand order is passed mechanically, a writ of habeas is not the remedy, he stated before court.

“As a matter of law and as a matter of proprierty, the hierarchy of courts should not be altered.”
Advocate Amit Desai as quoted by Live Law

What Happened During Hearing on 6 Nov?

During the hearing on Friday, the judges pointed out that the usual practice for seeking bail is to approach the lower courts - either the magistrate court or the sessions court - and approach the high court only if bail is denied there.

Pleading that Goswami's liberty was at stake, Salve said that the Code of Criminal Procedure's Section 439 has given the high court special powers to hear bail pleas.

Advocates Harish Salve and Abad Ponda took the court 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”.

Senior Advocate Abad Ponda had argued 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.

Harish Salve had argued 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 court will also hear a plea filed by Adnya Naik, daughter of the architect Anvay Naik, who along with his mother Kumud Naik, had committed suicide at their bungalow in Alibaug, Raigad, on May 5, 2018. She has sought a reinvestigation into the case or transferring it to an independent agency.

Goswami was nabbed from his Worli residence in a dramatic operation by the Mumbai Police and Raigad police on November 4 morning and whisked off to Raigad. Late that night, he was sent to judicial custody for 14 days by Alibaug Court Chief Judicial Magistrate Sunaina Pingle, who observed that the arrest appeared to be illegal.

Two other accused in the same case -- Feroze Shaikh and Nitesh Sarda -- were also sent to judicial custody. They, along with Goswami, had allegedly defaulted on payments which reportedly led to the double suicide of the Naik mother-son duo, and have challenged their arrest.

The police have challenged the Alibaug court orders, while Goswami has challenged the police action and the FIR against him in the double-suicide case, before the Bombay HC. Based on a complaint by Akshata Naik, the widow of late architect, the Alibaug police had registered the FIR in 2018 after her husband (Anvay) and mother-in-law (Kumud Naik) committed suicide on May 5 that year.

In a suicide note, Anvay Naik had named three persons - Republic TV's Goswami for defaulting on a payment of Rs 83 lakh, Shaikh of IcastX/Skimedia of Rs 4 crore and Sarda of Smartworks for not paying Rs 55 lakh.

(With inputs from IANS)

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