HC reserves order on Arnab Goswami's bail plea, no immediate relief

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(Eds: incorporating related lower court story) Mumbai, Nov 7 (PTI) Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, arrested in an abetment of suicide case on November 4, failed to get any immediate relief on Saturday as the Bombay High Court reserved its order on his interim bail plea.

But the court said he can move the sessions court for regular bail in the meantime.

Elsewhere, the Raigad sessions court said it will hear police's appeal against magistrate's order denying them the custody of Goswami and two other accused on November 9.

After hearing marathon arguments, a division bench of Justices S S Shinde and M S Karnik said it would not be possible to pass the order on Saturday itself.

Goswami's lawyer Harish Salve sought his release as 'ad-interim relief' but the HC expressed inability to do so.

'We will pass the order at the earliest. The pendency of this matter does not preclude you (Goswami) or the other accused from approaching the concerned lower court seeking regular bail,' the court said.

If a bail plea is filed, then the sessions court shall decide it within four days, it said.

The high court was hearing petitions filed by Goswami, a high-profile TV journalist, and two other accused -- Feroze Shaikh and Nitish Sarda -- seeking interim bail and challenging their 'illegal arrest'.

The trio were arrested by Alibaug police in Maharashtra's Raigad district on November 4 in connection with the suicide of architect-interior designer Anvay Naik and his mother in 2018 over alleged non-payment of dues by their respective firms.

The petitions also sought a stay to the investigation and quashing of the FIR.

The court, which on Saturday only heard arguments on interim bail, said it would hear the petitioners on quashing of the FIR on December 10, after Diwali vacation.

After his arrest from his Lower Parel residence here amid high drama on Wednesday, Goswami was taken to Alibaug, where the Chief Judicial Magistrate remanded him and two others in judicial custody till November 18.

As the magistrate refused to remand them in police custody, the Alibaug police filed revision plea in the Raigad district court, which said earlier on Saturday that it will hear it on November 9.

Goswami is presently lodged at a local school which has been designated as a COVID-19 centre for the Alibaug prison.

The high court, hearing the arguments on Saturday, sought to know why the petitioners did not move the lower court first for bail.

'The high court is already overburdened with regular bail appeals. We do not want to undermine the authority of the sessions court which is empowered to hear regular bail plea,' Justice Shinde said.

In his bail plea, Goswami alleged that he and his family were assaulted by the police during the arrest, and he suffered a 'six-inch deep gash on his left hand, a serious injury to his spinal cord'.

But his lawyers did not raise these allegations during the arguments.

Senior counsel Amit Desai, appearing for Maharashtra government, opposed bail, saying there was fresh material to reopen the case which had been closed earlier.

The accused should have approached the sessions court first, and if they do so, the 'police will not seek adjournments or prolong the hearing,' Desai said.

Desai also argued that just because Alibaug police had filed an `A' Summary report closing the case, it does not mean there can be no fresh probe. '`A' summary does not mean the offence did not occur or that the case is false. It only means that the investigation could not be completed. This is a matter that is now again under investigation,' he said.

He also contended that no permission was not required to be taken from the magistrate to carry out further probe.

'The state government ordered the (fresh) probe pursuant to which the police intimated the magistrate on October 15, 2020. The magistrate noted `Seen' and kept the file on record.

'After this, the statements of several witnesses including the victim's family were recorded before the magistrate under section 164 of CrPC,' he said.

Senior counsel Shirish Gupte, appearing for victim Anvay Naik's wife Akshata Naik, also opposed the pleas, and said the magistrate had accepted the closure report in 2019 without giving the victim's family an opportunity to object.

Advocate Devadatt Kamat, appearing for Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh, sought deletion of Singh's name as respondent in Goswami's plea, saying the case was filed by Alibaug police and he had nothing do with it.

The HC, meanwhile, also sought response from the state government on a petition filed by Anvay Naik's daughter Adnya Naik seeking a fresh probe by an independent agency. It will be heard on December 8.

Goswami's lawyers, during the hearing earlier, had claimed that the allegations against him were baseless and Maharashtra government only wanted to harass him because of his outspokenness as a journalist. PTI SP KRK KRK