Uphold Arnab Goswami’s Personal Liberty; Then, Uphold It for All
Misuse of the UAPA in Kappan & Kalita’s cases abuses the same liberty that the SC protected in Arnab’s case.
Video Producer: Shohini Bose
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Cameraperson: Abhishek Ranjan
Yeh Jo India Hai Na... yahan par we are all talking about Arnab Goswami. But saath mein, let’s also talk about sedition and jingoism, hate speech and freedom of expression, newsroom lynchings and media freedom. Also, about how our law courts respond when confronted with some of these crucial issues.
First, here’s what Arnab Goswami said after returning to his newsroom soon after he got bail:
But in the courtroom of his own TV studio, he has labelled several fellow Indians as terrorists, abused them and shamed them repeatedly – with zero evidence! Does that make Maharashtra Police’s action right? No, it smacks of politics, and the Supreme Court was right in granting Arnab bail. But...
- Question #1: What about those targeted by Arnab in his ‘courtroom’?
- Question #2: Don’t they deserve the same fairness that Arnab demands for himself?
And while we don’t get fairness from Arnab’s biased, partisan courtroom, surely we can expect that from our nation’s law courts!
Click on the player for the full podcast.
Take a look at this cartoon by Manjul. It shows our courts letting one crow – Arnab – fly free, while many others birds – other individuals, remain jailed.
Speaking to The Quint, Supreme Court lawyer Karuna Nandy asked bluntly:
She further asked why our courts were inconsistent when it came to defending civil liberties. Nundy and others have pointed out the case of Sudha Bharadwaj, human rights activist and Bhima Koregaon case accused.
No Evidence, Yet Sudha Bharadwaj Is Still in Jail
In September 2020, the Supreme Court refused to consider Bharadwaj’s interim bail plea, despite the fact that even after two years in jail,
- she was yet to be charged
- evidence against her had never been shared
- and all she wanted, since she was a diabetic and almost 60, was to be tested for COVID-19
Instead, the Supreme Court told her that she had a bail plea pending at the Bombay High Court, and asked her to go there. But then, Arnab Goswami, too, had a bail plea pending at the Alibaug Sessions Court, but the SC heard his plea and granted him bail.
Why two different yardsticks? We’re forced to ask. While Sudha Bharadwaj stays on in jail, Arnab returns to his newsroom – to target who else but Sudha Bharadwaj, whom he routinely abuses as anti-national without a shred of evidence.
While granting Arnab bail, Supreme Court Justice DY Chandrachud said:
Very rightly said, but what senior Supreme Court lawyers, like Dushyant Dave – who is also the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, are asking of the apex court is this:
- Question #3: Why no consistency in protecting personal liberty?
- Question #4: Why did former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram have to spend months in jail waiting for his bail petition to be heard?
Some may argue that while Sudha Bharadwaj was arrested under the UAPA anti-terror law, Goswami’s is an abetment of suicide case. So, their bail pleas would be examined differently. But the fact is, some people have been arrested under the UAPA to take advantage of its draconian conditions – where the accused can be held for months, without framing charges or sharing evidence.
No Evidence, Yet Devangana Kalita Is Still in Jail
Look at the case of Pinjra Tod activist Devangana Kalita. The Delhi High Court granted her bail in a North-East Delhi violence case, in which she had been charged with:
- attempt to murder
- criminal conspiracy.
The court said:
- she only took part in a peaceful agitation
- police had no evidence of her making a hate speech or instigating violence
- she should not be kept under unjustified detention
But in another case, Devangana faces the same charges under the UAPA. Since the police does not have to show any evidence under the UAPA, she has NOT been granted bail. So, the same judicial system has granted her bail and refused her bail for the same charge!
- Question #5: Isn’t the abuse of the UAPA a travesty of justice?
- Question #6: Doesn’t the abuse of the UAPA trample the same personal liberty, that the Supreme Court so pro-actively protected in Arnab Goswami’s case?
- Question #7: Why should months and years pass before the
Supreme Court acts in such cases?
In the case of Jammu and Kashmir as well, the Supreme Court has ignored scores of habeas corpus petitions against possible illegal detentions. It has delayed listening to the constitutional challenges to the end of J&K’s special status for so long that it is becoming the new status quo. Doesn’t this hurt the liberty of lakhs of fellow Indians living in J&K? Yes, it does.
No Evidence, Yet Siddique Kappan Is Still in Jail
In the more recent case of journalist Siddique Kappan, too, bail seems unlikely. Why again, the UAPA. He was arrested on charges of sedition under the UAPA on 5 October 2020, while heading with three others to cover the Hathras gang rape case.
- He has not been named in the related FIR.
- The police claim that he was arranging funds for a terrorist act, but no evidence has been shared.
Is the evidence there? We don’t know.
Just like the case of Devangana Kalita, could it be that there isn’t any here? Yes.
But, is the police obliged to share evidence? No.
Why? Because of the UAPA.
Over 40 days in jail and counting...could this also be a travesty of justice, worthy of the Supreme Court’s intervention? Yes!
Our law courts upheld the liberty of Arnab, we hope they do the same for Siddique as well.
Lastly, we heard the Supreme Court suggest that if we differ with Arnab in ideology, we needn’t watch his channel. That’s right.
- Question #8: When what he says is hate speech, can it still be ignored?
- Question #9: Yeh Jo India Hai Na… our courts need to tell us – how does my tweet or speech become sedition or hate speech, while Arnab’s inflammatory statements on air are called journalism?
- Question #10: And, how easy would it be to get bail for that?
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