The Congress and its alliance partner Shiv Sena on Wednesday responded to mounting criticism from Union ministers and BJP leaders after the arrest of Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami earlier in the day, reported PTI. Goswami was arrested by the Mumbai Police for allegedly abetting the suicide of an interior designer in Alibaug in 2018.
The case is related to the death of Anvay Naik, managing director of Concorde Designs Private Limited, in 2018. A suicide note by Naik accused Goswami and two others – Feroz Shaikh and Niteish Sarda – of not paying dues worth Rs 5.40 crore. Naik and his mother Kumud Naik were found dead in their home in Kavir village of Alibaug.
Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said BJP’s “selective outrage” on press freedom is “shameful” and that the law will take its own course in the case against Goswami. Shrinate referred to cases filed against other journalists, including Scroll.in’s Executive Editor Supriya Sharma, for a report from the prime minister’s constituency in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, on the effects of the country’s lockdown to combat the coronavirus.
“And a reporter who exposed the PPE kit scam in Uttar Pradesh is jailed and faces serious sedition charges instead of action being taken against those responsible for the scam,” Shrinate told reporters in Delhi. “So this selective outrage is extremely unwarranted, is shameful and they (the BJP) should be ashamed of saying anything.”
Shrinate, who was a journalist for almost two decades before joining the Congress, also criticised Goswami. She said he had brought complete “disgrace and shame” to journalism.
“What he does in the garb of journalism is not journalism, what he does in the garb of journalism is the work of a BJP frontal,” Shrinate added. “To accuse people, to hurl abuses, to make any sort of allegations, to use the language that he does. Is he judge or jury? What sort of journalism is he doing in the garb of running a TV channel?”
The Congress spokesperson also accused the saffron party of controlling the media through advertisements and intimidation tactics. “I am reasonably certain that wherever Congress is in government or we are in alliance, people will not be punished if they are absolutely innocent,” she said. “I also believe that law will take its own course even in this case.”
The Congress, Shrinate said, believes in the independence of institutions and has never compromised on their autonomy.
Earlier in the day, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh promised that the state police would take appropriate action in the case. “Nobody is above the law and Maharashtra Police will take appropriate action as per law,” Deshmukh told the media in Mumbai.
The state home minister also said that the case against Goswami was reopened after the interior designer’s wife approached a court, asking for permission for it. Following this, the court gave the approval, Deshmukh said.
- Arnab Goswami arrest: ‘Reminds us of Emergency’, say Union ministers, BJP leaders
- Arnab Goswami detained in 2018 abetment to suicide case, Union ministers criticise police action
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut contended that the journalist’s arrest was done with due procedure. “Police can take action if they have evidence against anyone,” he told ANI. “Since the formation of Thackeray government, no action has been taken against anyone for revenge.”
Maharashtra minister and Shiv Sena spokesperson Anil Parab also said Goswami’s arrest was in no way an attack on the freedom of press and instead questioned if the journalist was a BJP worker, according to the Hindustan Times.
“This case is not connected to the freedom of press in any manner,” Parab said. “BJP workers and leaders are complaining as if Arnab Goswami is their functionary and he was falsely arrested. He has been arrested in the case for further investigation. Where does the question of freedom of press or arise in this?”
Several political leaders, including Union minister and chief ministers, on Wednesday criticised the arrest of journalist Arnab Goswami, with many of them referring to the period of Emergency in India.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah criticised the Congress and said the party and its allies had “shamed democracy once again”. Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar condemned the attack on press freedom in Maharashtra.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad criticised Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi for the arrest of Goswami. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal called the move “fascist” and “a sign of undeclared emergency”.
The Editors Guild of India also expressed shock after the journalist’s arrest and said that it was “extremely distressing”.
Meanwhile, Goswami’s lawyer said that the journalist’s arrest was not conveyed to his wife. “He was assaulted by two police officers,” the lawyer claimed, reported ANI. “His family members were pushed and house was cordoned off for three hours. There are abrasions on his left hand and an existing injury on his hand was tried to be torn apart by police.”