A division bench of the Bombay High Court on Thursday refused a plea by Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of Republic TV, to be released immediately and posted his petition challenging his arrest by Alibag police in a 2018 abetment to suicide case for further hearing on Friday afternoon.
Goswami was arrested by Alibag police on Wednesday morning and was remanded in judicial custody till November 18 by a chief judicial magistrate at Alibag. The TV anchor, who had filed for a bail before the magistrate, withdrew his bail plea on Thursday and had moved the high court seeking immediate release, contending his arrest and detention was completely illegal.
His counsel, senior advocate Aabad Ponda, submitted that the case was closed by police in 2018 itself by filing an A-summary report (true but undetected) and it was not open to the police to reopen the case and start reinvestigation without a court order.
“It (magisterial order accepting the summary report and closing the case) was a nail in the coffin,” Ponda said. Insisting that the case could not have been resurrected without a court order – order issued by the concerned magistrate or some higher court.
The senior advocate also pointed out the Supreme Court rulings in support of his contention and submitted that the arrest of Goswami in “the dead case” was completely illegal. Ponda urged the court to release the Republic editor immediately, as according to him, detention of the journalist was not legally permissible at all.
He said the high court had enough plenary powers and must come to the rescue of a citizen treated unfairly by the state.
“This is a classic illustration of misuse of power by police and such arrest and detention cannot be tolerated even for a second,” he said, urging the court to release Goswami immediately on interim bail.
But the bench of justice SS Shinde and justice MS Karnik refused to issue an order for immediate release stating that it “can’t pass an order without hearing the complainant and state”.
The bench held this after senior advocate Amit Desai, representing the state government, requested for time to peruse the case papers. The bench, however, expressed inability to pass any interim order without granting the opportunity of hearing to the Maharashtra government, and the complainant, and posted the petition for further hearing on Friday on Desai’s request.
The bench also issued notices to the state and also to the complainant Adnya Naik, daughter of Anvay Naik who had died by suicide in 2018.
The bench felt it necessary to add the complainant as a party respondent to the petition, especially because she was not heard when the A-summary report was accepted and the case was closed by the judicial magistrate concerned.
The bench said it did not want to make the same mistake in this proceeding and directed Goswami to add her as a party to the petition, so that she can put forth her side on Friday. The bench also posted for hearing a plea filed by Adnya Naik for the case to be reinvestigated.
Interior designer, Anvay Naik died by suicide in Alibaug, Raigad. He was 53. His mother Kumud Naik too was also found dead at their home. In his suicide note, Naik alleged he was being forced to take this step as he was not paid dues collectively amounting to Rs 5.40 crore by Goswami and two others.
Naik was the managing director of Concorde Designs Private Limited, which rendered services for Republic TV. Along with Republic channel, Naik had dues with two other companies namely Smartworks and IcastX/Skimedia.
After Naik’s suicide, his wife Akshata had lodged a complaint with Alibaug police against Arnab Goswami, Feroz Shaikh and Nitish Sarda for allegedly abetting their suicide. Shaikh is connected to IcastX/Skimedia while Sarda is connected to Smart Works. Naik had alleged that he owes Rs 83 lakh to Goswami, Rs 55 lakhs to Sarda and Rs 4 crore to Shaikh.