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Arnab Goswami Arrest: SC Grants Bail to Republic TV’s Editor, 2 Others in Abetment to Suicide Case

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted interim bail to Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami in the 2018 abetment to suicide case. A two-judge bench, comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee, was set up to review Goswami’s bail plea.

Directing the police to release Goswami and co accused Nitish Sarda and Parveen Rajesh Singh, the court asked all three to furnish bonds worth Rs 50,000.

During the hearing, the Supreme Court pulled up the Maharashtra government and the Bombay High Court and highlighted the apex court’s role in ensuring liberty to every citizen.

The Supreme Court said that the Bombay High Court had made an error in the application for grant of interim bail on technical grounds. The court said that if constitutional courts don’t interfere, “we are travelling the path of destruction undeniably”.

Expressing concern over state governments targeting individuals on the basis of ideology and difference of opinion, the court said that if state governments target individuals, they must realise that the apex court is there to protect liberty of citizens. 

Goswami had filed a petition in the Bombay High Court on November 5, challenging his “illegal arrest” by the Maharashtra Police in the 2018 case of abetment of suicide of interior designer Anvay Naik. A division bench of Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik agreed to consider the petition filed by Naik’s daughter Adnya Naik in the case on November 6. Justice Shinde said that the bench would hear both sides before passing the order.

Goswami has been accused of non-payment of dues by his news channel Republic TV to Naik’s company Concorde Designs Pvt Ltd.

During the probe, the police had found a suicide note which claimed that Naik and his mother took their lives after the non-payment of dues amounting to Rs 83 lakh by Goswami of Republic TV, Rs 4 crore by Feroz Shaikh of IcastX/Skimedia, and Rs 55 lakh by Niteish Sarda of Smartworks.

While Goswami managed to get interim bail a week after he was arrested, there are several other journalists languishing in jails across the country and many have been denied bail for months. They include:

  1. Siddique Kappan: A journalist with Malayalam news portal Azhimukham.com., he was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police on October 5 while on his way to Hathras to cover the brutal sexual assault and murder of a Dalit girl by four upper-caste men. The police charged him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for “conspiring” against the state government.
  2. Kishorechandra Wangkhem: The Manipuri journalist was arrested for the second time in October for “promoting enmity” for responding to a viral social media post by the wife of a BJP leader. He had been arrested earlier in 2018 on sedition charges, because he had commented against the RSS, Chief Minister N Biren Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The high court had rejected the charges against him back in 2019.
  3. Aasif Sultan: The award-winning journalist, who was working with Kashmir-based magazine Kashmir Narrator, has been in jail for over 800 days now. He was arrested on charges of providing support to militants and “supporting a terrorist organisation”.
  4. Prashant Kanojia: The independent journalist, who was working with The Wire Hindi, had been arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police twice over the last two years. In both cases, he was arrested for his “seditious” tweets. After a sessions court denied him bail, he moved the Allahabad High Court, which issued his bail plea after four weeks on the Uttar Pradesh government’s request.
  5. Rajib Sarma: The Assamese journalist and correspondent for DY365 was arrested in July from his residence at 2 am, based on a complaint by a district forest officer. Sarma had been investigating the forest officer’s alleged illegal activities, including links to cattle smuggling. After facing severe criticism and anger from citizens, the government ordered a CID probe in the case.
  6. Dhaval Patel: An editor of a Gujarati news portal, he was arrested this May on sedition charges after he published a speculative piece that said Chief Minister Vijay Rupani may be replaced due to the rising Covid-19 cases under his supervision. He was granted bail by a court after weeks of his arrest.
  7. Ashwini Saini: A freelancer for Hindi daily Dainik Jagran and a contributor of a Facebook page that publishes news of Mandi district in Himachal Pradesh, he was initially arrested on the basis of an FIR filed under the Disaster Management Act by the Sundernagar sub-divisional magistrate Rahul Chauhan. Inspite of having a video proof, featuring workers facing difficulty during the lockdown, Saini was accused of spreading “fake news”. This was followed by three other FIRs against Saini, after he accused Chauhan of “gagging the press” through a letter he wrote to state Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
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