It is no ordinary matter if one of the most reputed, most distinguished and most competent Judge of a court which is none other than the Supreme Court expresses its most serious reservations on the manner in which Bombay High Court handled the Arnab Goswami case. A vacation Bench comprising of Justices Dr DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee of the Supreme Court is currently hearing the petition filed by Republic TV anchor Arnab Goswami challenging the November 9, 2020 order of the Bombay High Court which denied him interim bail in the Anvay Naik abetment to suicide case. During the hearing, Justice Chandrachud while wondering if the offence of abetment to suicide can be invoked for mere non-payment of money, made strong oral observations against the custody of Arnab Goswami and the denial of interim relief by the Bombay High Court. The final judgment is yet to come but Justice Chandrachud has made his commitment for personal liberty known to one and all by his strong observations. What has happened with Arnab Goswami cannot be justified under any circumstances!
Truth be told, Justice Dr DY Chandrachud then minces no words to hold that, “To make out a case of abetment, there has to be active incitement and encouragement. If money is owed to a person, is that a case of abetment to suicide? A owes money to B. B due to financial stress commit suicide. Will it attract offence under Section 306 IPC? We are dealing with personal liberty here and because he was owed money, Naik committed suicide due to financial stress. Is this a case for custodial interrogation?”
On similar lines, Harish Salve who is one of the most eminent, senior and distinguished lawyer of the Supreme Court of India and former Solicitor General also vociferously told the court in most eloquent, effective and elegant language that the case against Arnab Goswami did not stand the test of basic ingredients required to establish an offence of abetment to suicide under Section 306 IPC. Salve very rightly asked and wondered that, “Last month a man in Maharashtra committed suicide saying the Chief Minister failed to pay salary! What you do? Arrest the Chief Minister?” Salve is hundred percent right on this! If Uddhav Thackeray can justify arrest of Arnab Goswami on this stupid ground that someone has named him then he himself should also come forward and go to the same jail where Arnab Goswami is lodged when someone names him! What nonsense is this!
Needless to say, this alone explains why Justice Dr DY Chandrachud even remarked that, “It will be a travesty of justice if bail is not granted while FIR is pending.” Harish Salve too rightly questioned that, “Do you arrest a man in a three-year-old FIR and put him in jail on a Diwali week and then transfer him to Taloja jail with hardened criminals?” This is most disgraceful and what is worse is that Arnab was arrested as if he was a dreaded terrorist or a criminal and he and also his son and family members were assaulted by Bombay Police as he pointed out while talking to the press!
It cannot be overlooked that Justice Dr DY Chandrachud even went on to remark that, “It will be a travesty of justice if bail is not granted while FIR is pending.” He also very rightly posed the billion dollar question that, “If we as a constitutional court do not lay down law and protect liberty then who will?” All the High Courts Judges and also the lower courts Judges must pay attention to what Justice Chandrachud has observed so eloquently in this high profile case!
Full attention must be paid now to what Justice Dr DY Chandrachud then also noted that, “The High Court did not deal with the aspect if the allegations constituted the offence of abetment to suicide under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code. But the HC writes tones and tones of pages on why habeas is not maintainable even after prayer was given up.”
What is even more laudable is that Justice Chandrachud then minces no words to state in simple, straight and suave language that, “If this court does not interfere today, we are travelling on the path of destruction. Forget this man (Goswami). You may not like his ideology. Left to myself, I will not watch his channel. Keep aside everything. If this is what our state governments are going to do to people who are to be nailed, then the Supreme Court has to intervene. There has to be a message to HCs – Please exercise your jurisdiction to uphold personal liberty. We are seeing case after case. HCs are failing to exercise jurisdiction. People are in jail for tweets!” All the High Courts of India must pay heed to what Justice Chandrachud has held so aptly and appropriately which has to be applauded! Justice Chandrachud also referred to a recent case where the Supreme Court stayed the summons issued by the West Bengal police to a woman in Delhi to appear in Kolkata for tweeting against the State Government.
It is high time and the Maharashtra State Government also must pay heed to what Justice Dr DY Chandrachud has remarked that, “Our democracy is extraordinarily strong and resilient. Governments should ignore tweets and move on. This is not the basis on which elections are fought. If you don’t like a channel then don’t watch it.” He also rightly remarked that, “Technicality cannot be a ground to deny someone personal liberty. This is not a case of terrorism.” Why about more than 20 police armed with AK 47 went to his house? Is he a terrorist? Why his employees are arrested and handcuffed as if they are terrorists? Why Arnab was not allowed to wear his shoes and dragged by his hair and his son assaulted as has been alleged? All this speaks very poorly on the conduct of Mumbai police for which there is every reason to feel alarmed about!
What Justice Dr DY Chandrachud has observed so commendably in Arnab Goswami’s case is brilliant and must be commended in no uncertain terms. He has certainly stated nothing but the blunt truth! This witchhunting of Arnab just because he carries some news report which are not to the liking of Maharashtra State Government as we saw in case of Palghar sadhu mob lynching case where two sadhus were beaten and stoned to death right in front of police or the Sushant Singh Rajput case or many other such cases must stop forthwith!
Harish Salve too is hundred percent right that mere non-payment of dues cannot amount to abetment of suicide! Salve is also right that the Magistrate should have released Arnab Goswami on bond on the first day of production itself as no offence was made out against him! The judgment is yet to be delivered finally but the writing on the wall is ostensibly clear from what Justice Dr DY Chandrachud has said so aptly till now which we have already dwelt in considerable detail! There can certainly be no denying or disputing it!