The Bombay High Court on Saturday reserved its order on an interim bail plea filed by Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami in connection with a 2018 abetment of suicide case, Live Law reported. Goswami was arrested on Wednesday.
Goswami and two other people – Feroz Shaikh and Nitesh Sarda – are alleged to have failed to pay money they owed to an interior designer named Anvay Naik, managing director of Concorde Designs Private Limited. Naik and his mother were found dead in their home in Kavir village near Mumbai in 2018. A suicide note said that the Goswami, Shaikh and Sarda had not paid dues amounting to Rs 5.4 crore.
The Republic TV anchor was arrested on Wednesday morning from his residence at Lower Parel in Mumbai and sent to 14-day judicial custody. Goswami filed a petition in the Bombay High Court, challenging his “illegal arrest”. He sought immediate release and directions to quash the first information report filed against him in 2018.
A bench of Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik refused to pass an immediate order on the matter, saying they needed time to consider the compilations and submissions made by the parties in the case.
However, the court said the pendency of Goswami’s plea does not stop him from approaching the sessions court for bail under Section 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. “If such an application is led, it should be decided within four days,” the court said.
The High Court observed that the hierarchy of courts should not be disrupted, according to Bar and Bench. “Don’t you think that with [other] remedies available, if we grant remedy, then everyone will come to the High Court?” the bench asked. “It will send wrong signal that though Section 439 is there, then why come under writ? It will also undermine the authority of lower courts.”
During the hearing, senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing on behalf of Goswami, argued that the powers of a High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution are at par with the powers of the Supreme Court under Article 32. The former empowers high courts to issue writs to any person or authority, including the government in appropriate cases, while Article 32 enshrines the provision whereby individuals may seek redressal for the violation of their fundamental rights.
But advocate Amit Desai, appearing for the Maharashtra government, opposed the High Court directly entertaining the plea, asserting that this was not an “extraordinary case” where the hierarchy of courts needed to be broken. “This is not a fit case for grant of interim relief,” he said. “They have remedy before the trial court. They may get bail when if the trial court deems it fit.”
He said if the court entertains Goswami’s plea, it would open “a flood gate of applications” similar to this one. Desai further submitted that the proper procedure has been followed to restart the investigation into the accusations against Goswami.
The High Court heard both sides, reserved its orders in the matter and granted the parties four weeks’ time to file their replies. It had also refused to provide interim relief to Goswami on Thursday and Friday.
In his petition, Goswami claimed his arrest was a “witch-hunt” and vendetta politics against him and Republic TV. He also called it “an act of revenge and vengeance” for the channel’s news coverage.
“It is a settled principle of law that to attract the ingredients of abetment, the intention of the accused to aid or instigate or abet the deceased to commit suicide is necessary,” the petition added. “In the present case, by no stretch of imagination can it be said that there existed an intention to aid, instigate or abet the deceased to commit suicide on the part of the petitioner. Merely because a person has been named in the suicide note, one cannot jump to the conclusion that he is an offender under section 306, Indian Penal Code.”