No bail yet for Arnab, hearing in HC to continue tomorrow

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(Eds: adds details, arguments) Mumbai, Nov 6 (PTI) There was no immediate relief for Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, arrested in a 2018 abetment of suicide case, on Friday as the hearing on his interim bail plea before the Bombay High Court remained incomplete.

The court on Saturday will continue to hear his petition seeking interim bail and challenging his arrest in connection with the suicide of architect-interior designer Anvay Naik and his mother.

Goswami was arrested in the case by Alibaug police in neighbouring Raigad district on Wednesday, and a magistrate's court there remanded him in judicial custody till November 18.

A division bench of Justices S S Shinde and M S Karnik heard arguments by his lawyers Harish Salve and Aabad Ponda on Friday, but said the hearing will continue on Saturday for paucity of time.

'We will assemble for this matter tomorrow at noon.

Since regular court work will not be there tomorrow, we can hear this matter at length,' the HC said. The high court normally does not assemble on Saturdays.

The bench, during the hearing, noted that the normal practice when seeking bail is to first approach the concerned lower court magistrate or sessions court -- and move the high court if bail is refused.

To this, Salve said section 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) gives the high court special powers to hear bail pleas.

'His (Goswami's) liberty is at stake,' Salve said.

Advocate Ponda said a bail application was filed before the magistrate's court in Alibaug the same night Goswami was remanded in judicial custody.

'However, the application was withdrawn the next day as the magistrate had not given clarity on when it would be heard and had also expressed difficulty in deciding the plea as the case lies in the jurisdiction of the sessions court,' Ponda said.

Goswami was arrested on November 4 from his Lower Parel residence here and taken to Alibaug. The chief judicial magistrate there remanded him and co-accused Feroze Shaikh and Nitish Sarda in judicial custody.

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

The HC on Saturday will also hear petitions filed by Shaikh and Sarda, seeking similar relief.

It will also hear a petition filed by Anvay Naik's daughter Adnya Naik seeking reinvestigation of the case or transfer to an independent agency.

On Friday, Goswami's lawyers also argued that the Maharashtra government was trying to harass him for questioning the government on his news channel.

'This is a clear case of abuse of powers. There are multiple FIRs lodged against him. In this abetment of suicide case of 2018, the police have arrested him knowing fully well that courts will soon break for Diwali vacation. The Maharashtra government just wants to teach him a lesson,' advocate Salve said.

The lawyers also pointed out that Alibaug Chief Judicial Magistrate had said in the remand order that the `arrest appears to be illegal', and had questioned the whole prosecution case.

'The court has noted that the police have not taken permission before reopening the case,' Salve said, adding that in such circumstances, Goswami need not be jailed.

The high court sought to know if the magistrate's order of Wednesday has been challenged.

Ponda informed that the police have filed a revision application before the Alibaug sessions court against it.

In May 2018, interior designer Anvay Naik and his mother Kumodini Naik allegedly died by suicide over alleged non-payment of dues by the accused persons' companies.

In 2019, the Alibaug police filed a closure report in the case which was accepted by a local court there.

However, the case was reopened in October 2020 by the Alibaug police who claimed that fresh evidence had come to light which warranted further probe. PTI SP KRK KRK