Thursday, May 30, 2024

SC grants bail to Arnab; unhappy that HCs are not doing enough on personal liberty

The Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned an earlier order of the Bombay High Court, which denied bail to journalist Arnab Goswami in an abetment to suicide case.

While granting bail, Justice DY Chandrachud pulled up the lower court, asserting that high courts have previously denied personal liberties in a number of cases.

“Please exercise your jurisdiction to uphold personal liberty,” he said.

The Supreme Court was extremely displeased on Wednesday that Bombay High Court had dismissed interim bail plea of Republic TV’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami.

While hearing the bail plea of Goswami, on an abetment to suicide case, Supreme Court said that High Courts were not doing enough when personal liberty is denied. Further, if a Constitutional court doesn’t interfere, “we are travelling on the path of destruction undeniably.”

“SC is unhappy that HCs, which are constitutional courts, are not doing enough in matters where personal liberty is denied…,” Justice D Y Chandrachud said. “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,” he added.

A vacation bench of Justices Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee are presently hearing Goswami’s plea challenging the refusal of Bombay High Court to his interim bail plea.

Kapil Sibal, who is representing Maharashtra, was asked by Justice Chandrachud if there was an active encouragement or instigation which could be construed as abetment to suicide.

 “Otherwise look at the drastic consequences. We are dealing with personal liberty,” said Justice Chandrachud. He further said the Maharashtra government could’ve ignored all this (the provocation of Arnab on television).

Interestingly, Sibal said that the freedom of expression granted under Article 19 of the Constitution was not an absolute right. It flew in the face of assertion of Maharashtra government in recent days that its police was only doing its job. That it had nothing to do with his journalism. Sanjay Raut, spokesperson of Shiv Sena, had claimed that police had arrested Goswami on the basis of evidence.

Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Goswami, said the case was nothing but a smokescreen to punish Goswami.

“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 said.

According to Live Law, Salve argued that Goswami was arrested on the basis of a three-year-old FIR. “That too during the Diwali week and then he is transferred from Taloja Jail,” he said adding, “There is no doubt about what they (state government) are trying to do.”

Salve further argued that the overlay of malice and fact, abuse and conduct of state power is not something that happens on daily basis.

“We’re past FIR stage. FIR was lodged in May 2018 & after this matter was probed. Power to re-investigation was wrongly used,” said Salve.

On November 9, the HC bench of Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik had denied the interim bail to Goswami. The HC gave Goswami liberty to move the sessions court for bail under Section 439 of CrPC and directed the sessions court to dispose of the matter in four days, if filed.

Goswami and two others — Feroze Shaikh and Nitish Sarda — were arrested on November 4.

The case pertains to the death of interior designer Anvay Naik and his mother Kumud Naik at their bungalow in Alibaug in May 2018. According to police officials, the duo died by suicide over alleged non-payment of dues by Goswami’s channel and two other companies.



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