Arnab fails to get HC relief, files bail plea in lower court

·6-min read

(Eds: Updates with details, HC quotes) Mumbai, Nov 9 (PTI) The Bombay High Court on Monday declined to grant interim bail to Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami and two others, arrested in a case of abetment of suicide of an interior designer, prolonging their stay in jail in a matter that has generated wide public attention.

Before the HC ruling, which came in the afternoon, Goswami (47) on Monday morning filed a bail application in the Alibaug sessions court in the adjoining Raigad district, where the 2018 suicide abetment case has been registered, his lawyer Gaurav Parkar said.

A division bench of Justices S S Shinde and M S Karnik, while rejecting the interim bail pleas of Goswami and the two other accused Feroze Shaikh and Nitish Sarda said 'no case has been made out for us (court) to exercise our extraordinary jurisdiction'.

The HC said the accused had the remedy to approach a lower court in Raigad district, where the case has been filed, for regular bail.

With the high court refusing interim bail to Goswami, who was arrested on November 4 by the Alibaug police from his Mumbai residence, the news anchor's stay at Taloja Jail will get extended.

The sessions court is also hearing a revision application filed by the Alibaug police, challenging a November 4 order of a magistrate's court denying them custody of Goswami and the other accused, and remanding them to judicial custody till November 18.

The sessions court will continue hearing the revision application on Tuesday, special public prosecutor Pradip Gharat said.

Goswamis lawyer Parkar said after the revision plea is heard, the court will take up the bail plea for hearing.

'The court has issued notice to the police on the bail plea,' he said.

On November 6, the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) of Alibaug allowed the police to question Goswami and the two other accused for three hours daily at the Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai.

Prosecution application read. Since, the accused persons are in judicial custody, the police are seeking permission to question them for three hours for investigation purposes in jail. Permission is granted, the magistrate said in the November 6 order.

The police, in their application, sought permission to question the trio for three hours everyday till they are released on bail.

Goswami and the two others were arrested in connection with the suicide of architect-interior designer Anvay Naik and his mother, residents of Alibaug, over alleged non-payment of dues by companies of the accused.

The HC, in its order on Monday, said, 'The petitioners have an alternate and efficacious remedy of seeking bail before the sessions court concerned (in Alibaug).

'We have already noted earlier that if such a bail plea is filed, then the sessions court shall decide the same in four days.' The bench noted that refusal of the interim bail applications shall not affect the remedy available to the petitioners to seek regular bail.

It said the sessions court shall hear and decide the bail pleas on merits.

'Rejection of interim order shall not be construed as an impediment to the petitioners seeking alternate remedies.

'The observations made in this order rejecting interim bail are prima facie only,' the HC said in its order.

The HC said in its opinion, the further investigation ordered in the case by the Maharashtra government cannot be termed as illegal and without seeking permission of the magistrate.

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, adding before carrying out the said probe, the magistrate was intimated about the further investigation.

The HC noted that the victims rights are equally important like the rights of the accused.

The order noted that in the present case, the informant (Naiks wife Akshata) was neither given any notice nor heard when the A Summary report (closure report) was submitted by the police.

Even the order accepting the closure report was not communicated to the informant.

'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 HC said.

The bench said in the present case, two members of a family have lost their lives and allegations are made against the three petitioners.

Therefore, the continuous persuasion to the State Government by the informant for redressal of her grievance since her two family members had committed suicide.

'And in the aforesaid background, the concerned investigating officer, after intimating the Magistrate, commences further investigation, cannot be said to be irregular or illegal by any stretch of imagination, the HC said.

The high court said it cannot accept the contention of the petitioners that there cannot be further investigation when the order passed by the magistrate accepting the closure report was without notice and without giving an opportunity to the complainant for filing protest petition.

The high court also said it cannot consider at this stage the submission made by Goswamis counsel Harish Salve that the FIR in the case does not disclose any offence against the petitioner.

The said 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, the HC said.

It added that the court refrains from expressing any opinion at this stage as it has posted the petitions seeking quashing of the FIR on December 10.

Goswami, Shaikh and Sarda last week filed petitions in the HC, challenging their 'illegal arrest' in the case and seeking interim bail.

Apart from interim bail, the petitioners also sought that the HC stay the investigation into the case and quash the FIR against them.

The court will hear their pleas seeking to quash the FIR on December 10.

After arrest, Goswami was initially kept at a local school which is designated as a COVID-19 quarantine centre for the Alibaug prison.

He was on Sunday shifted to the Taloja jail after allegedly being found using a mobile phone while in judicial custody, according to police.

In his petition, Goswami alleged that he is being targeted and harassed by the Maharashtra government for his reportage against the state government and the Mumbai police on his news channel.

Meanwhile, a news anchor of Republic TV has written a letter to Chief Justice of India (CJI) S A Bobde urging him to take cognizance of shifting of Goswami to the Taloja Jail to keep him allegedly with 'hardened' and 'underworld' criminals and provide 'some sort of safety' to him.

Pradeep Bhandari, a consulting editor with the news channel, in his letter written on Sunday to the CJI alleged that Goswami has been shifted to jail on a 'false pretext'.

Bhandari said Goswami has said that 'his life is in danger and he has been beaten up in the morning ' and urged the CJI to take cognizance of this matter and provide some sort of safety to him.

The letter said Goswami has been 'brutalised and tortured ' for his views against the Maharashtra government.

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