Arnab held in suicide case, gets judicial custody till Nov 18

·7-min read

(Eds: adds details) Mumbai, Nov 4 (PTI) Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami was on Wednesday arrested for allegedly abetting the suicide of a 53-year-old interior designer in 2018, a police official said.

Goswami was produced in a court in Alibaug, 90 km from Mumbai, and was remanded to judicial custody till November 18.

Two others, named along with Goswami in the interior designer's suicide note, who were also arrested on Wednesday, have also been remanded to judicial custody till November 18, Goswami's lawyer Gaurav Parkar said.

The Alibaug court ruling came shortly after 11 pm.

The official said a team of Raigad police picked up Goswami (47) from his Lower Parel house in the morning. He was seen being pushed into the police van, and claimed that he was assaulted by police before being taken away.

'Police arrested Goswami under sections 306 (abetment of suicide), and 34 (acts done by persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.

This (arrest) pertains to the 2018 case of a man and his mother committing suicide. We have evidence (against Goswami),' the police official said.

'When we gave the intimation (of arrest) to Goswami's wife, she tore up the paper,' said the official who was present at Goswami's home when he was picked up by police.

A viral video showed police personnel entering Goswami's house, while the journalist is seen making efforts to close the door on them. Goswami, ensconced on a sofa, is later heard telling the cops to maintain social distancing, as they come near him and ask him to accompany them.

A policeman is seen catching hold of Goswami's left arm and asking him to accompany the cops. 'You assaulted me and you are physically assaulting my family,' Goswami is heard saying.

In the video, aired by Republic TV, a woman police officer is heard asking Goswami's wife to sign documents pertaining to the arrest, to which Goswami is heard telling her not to sign them. Goswam's wife, also a senor journalist, is then seen tearing the papers.

Goswami is also seen repeatedly telling his wife to record the entire proceedings.

Soon after the vehicle carrying Goswami reached Alibaug, he was produced in a local court, which directed police to take him to the civil hospital there for medical check-up, after his lawyer alleged the senior journalist was assaulted by police.

'Goswami was produced before a magistrate court in Alibaug where he complained of physical assault at the hands of the police team that barged into his house this morning, Parkar said.

The magistrate took note of the allegations and directed police to take Goswami to the civil hospital for medical check-up, after which he was brought back to the court for hearing on his remand.

Police sought a 14-day remand of Goswami. The court remanded him and the two others arrested in the suicide case, to judicial custody till November 18, the lawyer said Mumbai police registered an FIR against Goswami, his wife, son and two others for 'obstructing, assaulting, verbally abusing and intimidating' a police officer on duty and for tearing up 'government papers' (arrest intimation) at his house, an official said.

The FIR was registered at the N M Joshi Marg police station under sections 353, 504, 506 of IPC and section 3 of the Damage of Public Property Act, the official said.

Police said the earlier investigation officer who first probed the abetment to suicide case will face inquiry.

That officer had submitted a closure report in the case, saying there was no evidence, police said.

The architect and his mother committed suicide over alleged non-payment of dues by Republic TV, police said.

In May this year, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh announced he has ordered a fresh probe in the case after a complaint by Adnya Naik, daughter of the architect Anvay Naik.

Deshmukh said Adnya alleged that the Alibaug police had not investigated the alleged non-payment of dues from Goswami's channel, which she claimed drove her father and grandmother to suicide in May 2018.

Police said that in a suicide note, Anvay Naik, who owned Concorde Designs Pvt Ltd, had claimed that he was ending his life due to non-payment of his dues by Goswami, Feroz Shaikh of IcastX/Skimedia and Niteish Sarda of Smartworks.

Police said that as per the note, the three firms owed Naiks company Rs 83 lakh, Rs four crore and Rs 55 lakh respectively. The two others named in the suicide note were also arrested on Wednesday, police said.

Responding to the claim on non-payment of dues, Republic TV had in a statement said the entire amount owed to Concorde had been paid.

The BJP and the Congress engaged in a verbal duel over Goswami's arrest, with the saffron party saying it was an 'attack on press freedom' reminiscent of the Emergency, while the opposition party termed it tirade as 'selective outrage'.

Reacting to the development, the Editors Guild of India condemned the 'sudden arrest' and asked Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to ensure that Goswami is treated fairly and state power is not used against critical reporting by the media.

The arrest triggered a political slugfest between the BJP and the Congress. BJP president J P Nadda and senior Union ministers slammed Goswami's arrest, with Home Minister Amit Shah describing it as a 'blatant misuse of state power' which reminded of the Emergency.

'India didn't forgive Indira Gandhi for the Emergency.

India never forgave Rajiv Gandhi for his assault on press freedom. And now, India will again punish Sonia-Rahul Gandhi for their brazen and intimidating use of state power to get equal with journalists,' Nadda tweeted.

Reacting to Goswami's arrest, Shah said Congress and its allies have shamed democracy once again.

'Blatant misuse of state power against Republic TV and Arnab Goswami is an attack on individual freedom and the 4th pillar of democracy. It reminds us of the Emergency. This attack on free press must be and will be opposed,' he tweeted.

Several Union ministers, including Prakash Javadekar and S Jaishankar, described Goswami's arrest as 'an attack on the freedom of press' and said it reminded of the Emergency years.

Hitting out at the BJP over its criticism of Goswami's arrest, the Congress said its 'selective outrage' on press freedom is 'shameful' and the law will take its own course in the case against the Republic TV editor-in-chief.

Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said she was 'actually very shocked with the selective outrage' of the BJP and of the sections of the government.

'Why are they silent when Prashant Kanojia is jailed for a number of months just because he exposed a scam where children were being served salt and chapati in Mirzapur?' the spokesperson asked, referring to the journalist who was arrested by the UP Police.

Addressing a media briefing, she raised several other questions.'Why is the BJP selectively silent when sedition charges are slapped against journalists and when a case has been filed against (Scroll) journalist Supriya Sharma because she exposed the pathetic state of affairs in a village in Varanasi?' she asked.

'And when a reporter who exposed the PPE kit scam in Uttar Pradesh is jailed and faces serious sedition charges instead of action been taken against those responsible for the scam,' she added.

Many top BJP ministers slammed the Maharashtra government over Goswami's arrest and hit out at the Congress.

The Congress is part of the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra with NCP as the other partner.

In a series of tweets, Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the arrest of senior journalist Goswami was 'seriously reprehensible, unwarranted and worrisome.' 'We had fought for freedom of Press as well while opposing the draconian Emergency of 1975,' Prasad said.

Information and Broadcasting minister Javadekar said Goswami's arrest is reminiscent of 'Emergency days'.

He also hit out at the Congress, saying its 'fascist and Emergency mindset' is on display in Maharashtra.

Union minister Smriti Irani tweeted that if those in free press don't stand up in support of Goswami then they are tactically in support of fascism. PTI DC SP ASK ACB SNE UZM JTR NAB DV PYK VT VT VT