December 8, 2023

Abetment to suicide case: No interim relief, Arnab Goswami told to move sessions court

Arnab Goswami was arrested on November 4 for allegedly driving interior designer Anvay Naik to take his own life in Alibaug in 2018.

The Bombay High Court on Monday rejected the interim bail plea of Republic TV Editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami in an abetment to suicide case registered against him in May 2018. The division bench of Justices S S Shinde and M S Karnik also refused the interim bail to co-accused Nitish Sarda and Feroz Shaikh.

The bench said that “no case was made out based on facts of case as per section 439 of Criminal Procedure Code under extraordinary jurisdiction” and said observations are in ‘prima facie nature.’

The court, while rejecting interim bail plea, also clarified that its earlier directions of granting liberty to accused to file for bail under Section 439 of the CrPC before the sessions Court remain ‘unaffected’ and if filed, it be heard and disposed of within four days.

The court also said the accused have a remedy in law to apply for regular bail before the sessions court, which should be decided on ‘merits of the case’. Rejection of interim application ‘should not be construed as impediment’ for the same, it said.

The court, in its 56-page order, said that the fact that the Magistrate did not give notice and opportunity to the first informant to file a protest petition before accepting the report, goes to the root of the matter. The judges held that there was ‘no doubt in their minds’ that the state government can ‘always’ direct a further investigation to the concerned police officers, as done in the present case.

“Merely because Magistrate accepted the ‘A’ summary submitted by Investigating Officer, that would not mean and preclude IO to invoke provisions of S.173(8) of CrPC to commence further investigation after giving intimation to Magistrate,” HC noted in the order.

“The continuous persuasion of state government by the informant for redressal of her grievance and the concerned IO, after intimating the Magistrate, commences the further investigation, cannot be said to be irregular or illegal by any stretch of the imagination,” the court noted.

It added: “Victim’s rights are equally important like the rights of the accused. We cannot accept petitioner’s contention that there cannot be further probe when Magistrate’s order accepting “A” summary was without notice and without giving opportunity to the informant for filing the protest petition.”

In light of this, the bench said, “The informant’s prayer for further investigation could not have been brushed aside by the respondent State and its officials, when as per the allegations in the FIR, two of her family members committed suicide due to the alleged acts of the accused.”

Thus, there is no manner of doubt in our minds that the state government can always direct a further investigation to the concerned police officers, as done in the present case,” the bench said.

Also, responding to senior advocate Harish Salve’s submission that allegations in the FIR did not disclose alleged offence against Goswami, the court said, “The submission deserves no consideration at this stage when the investigation is in progress and the alleged suicide note recovered by the Investigating Officer mentions the name of the petitioner.”

However, the court clarified, “The observations made are prima facie in nature and confined to the adjudication of the present Interim Application (for bail) only.”

The bench will hear Goswami’s petition seeking stay on the investigation and quashing of FIR along with pleas by two others on December 10.

Ahead of this verdict, Goswami and two co-accused moved an application for regular bail before the Alibaug Sessions Court.

Goswami was shifted to Taloja Central Prison in Navi Mumbai on Sunday morning from a makeshift Covid-19 quarantine centre in Alibaug for allegedly using a cellphone.

Goswami and two others — Feroze Shaikh and Nitish Sarda — were arrested on November 4. The case against Goswami 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 television channel and two other companies.

On Saturday, the Bombay High Court had reserved its order on the bail plea of Goswami without granting any immediate relief.

The writ plea filed by Goswami said the arrest was conducted in “blatant violation of the fundamental rights to life and personal liberty” of Goswami and his dignity guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

In his bail application, Goswami made allegations of manhandling by the police and claimed, “During the course of his arrest and while being transferred to Alibaug in a police van and in the custody of the police, the petitioner suffered a 6-inch-deep gash on his left hand, a serious injury to his spinal cord, was hit by a heavy uniform police officer’s boot, was not allowed to wear shoes throughout, suffered vein injuries and was not even given access to drinking water.”

Earlier in the day, Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari spoke to state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh and conveyed his concern over the security and health of the Republic TV Editor-in-Chief. The governors office in a statement said Koshyari also asked the state Home minister to allow Goswami’s family to see him and speak to him.