Arnab challenges arrest, HC to hear interim bail plea tomorrow

·5-min read

(Eds: combines related stories) Mumbai, Nov 5 (PTI) High-profile TV journalist Arnab Goswami, arrested in a 2018 suicide abetment case, will spend another night in a school in Alibaug, while his plea seeking interim bail will be heard by the Bombay High Court on Friday.

A magistrate in Alibaug, while remanding Goswami in judicial custody till November 18, had observed that his arrest was prima facie illegal, according to a detailed court order made available on Thursday.

Police filed a revision application before the Alibaug sessions court on Thursday, challenging the order passed by the magistrate there a day earlier.

Goswami was arrested on Wednesday from his residence at Lower Parel in Mumbai for allegedly abetting the suicide of architect and interior designer Anvay Naik, and was taken to the Alibaug police station in neighbouring Raigad district.

Alibaug, a coastal town, is around 90 km from Mumbai.

Goswami was produced before a magistrate's court, which remanded him in judicial custody till November 18.

He then moved the High Court against the 'illegal arrest', sought a stay to the investigation and a direction to the police to release him. He also sought that the FIR against him be quashed.

A division bench of Justices S S Shinde and M S Karnik on Thursday directed Goswami to make the complainant in the case, Akshata Naik, Anvay's wife, a respondent to his plea.

'We have to hear all the parties concerned before considering the interim relief sought. We have to also hear the complainant as the family of the deceased has filed a petition here seeking transfer of the probe,' the bench said.

'The respondents (the Maharashtra government and the complainant) are entitled to respond....We will consider the interim relief sought tomorrow,' the court said.

Senior counsel Aabad Ponda, appearing for Goswami, said a bail plea filed before the Alibaug magistrate's court has been withdrawn.

'The magistrate had not given clarity on when the bail plea would be heard and had also expressed difficultly in hearing the same as the case lies in the jurisdiction of the sessions court.

'Hence, we are seeking for interim bail here in high court,' Ponda said.

Senior counsel Harish Salve, also appearing for Goswami, argued that no prejudice will be caused to the prosecution if he was released on bail.

The court, however, said it cannot consider the issue of bail without giving the respondents a chance to argue.

Ponda also argued that the police have resurrected a dead case in which a closure report had been filed and accepted by the Chief Judicial Magistrate at Alibaug in Raigad district by an order dated April 16, 2019.

The petition alleged that Goswami and his son were assaulted by the police team when it arrested the journalist in a 'motivated, false and closed case'.

'This is another attempt of political witch-hunt and vendetta politics against the petitioner and his channel,' it alleged.

A case that was 'decisively closed' was reopened for forcibly arresting the petitioner 'in a prima facie act of revenge and vengeance for his news coverage', it said.

It claimed that in May 2018, the police had recorded the statements of Goswami and two senior officials of Republic TV, and he had also provided documents to the police about the business transactions with Naik's company.

Goswami's company ARG Outlier had paid over 90 per cent of the amount due to Naik's firm Concorde Designs as per the contract, it claimed.

'In July 2019, the entire balance amount due was transferred to the bank account of Naik's company but the amount returned because the account was inoperative,' it said.

In the order on Wednesday, the Alibaug magistrate had observed that the arrest of Goswami and two other accused 'appears to be prima facie illegal'.

Chief Judicial Magistrate Sunaina Pingle after perusal of the case diary and other relevant documents had noted that the prosecution failed to prima facie establish a link between the deceased and the accused persons.

'Taking into consideration the reasons behind the arrest of the accused persons and the arguments put forth by the accused persons, the arrest appears to be prima facie illegal,' the magistrate had said in the late night order.

The magistrate noted that the chain of circumstances, the reason behind the deaths of Anvay Naik and his mother Kumodini Naik and its connection with the accused persons are not established by the prosecution.

'There is no cogent evidence submitted that warrants this court to remand the arrested accused to police custody,' the magistrate had said in the order.

The magistrate had also noted that if the police case is to be accepted that Anvay Naik took the drastic step of committing suicide due to non-payment of dues by Goswami and the two other accused, then the question arises as to why his (Anvay Naik's) mother Kumodini Naik committed suicide.

'Did she (Kumodini) die by suicide? There is no clear answer to this by the prosecution. The police have been unable to establish a link between the deaths of Kumodini Naik and Anvay Naik and the three arrested accused,' the court said.

While refusing to remand the three accused in police custody, the magistrate had also noted that the police have not been able to specifically point out the so-called lacunae in the probe done by the previous police team in 2018.

The magistrate in the order also said the case was investigated by the police in 2018 and an 'A' summary report seeking closure of the case was submitted before the court concerned in 2019.

Alibaug police on Thursday filed a revision application before the sessions court there challenging the order passed by the magistrate remanding Goswami to judicial custody in connection with the interior designer's suicide.

The police in its application said the magistrates court had erred in not considering the submissions and grounds submitted by the prosecution while seeking custody of Goswami and the two other arrested accused.

After being remanded to judicial custody, Goswami had spent the night at the Alibaug Nagar Parishad School, which has been designated as a COVID-19 centre for the Alibaug prison, an official said. PTI SP AVI GK KRK VT VT VT