SC gave Arnab bail as FIR didn’t establish abetment to suicide

Apex court says in cases involving liberty of citizens targeted by state, the courts must ensure that state does not use criminal law as a tool to jeopardise liberty

Arnab Goswami
Within the first year of its airing, Republic Bharat was pulled up by Ofcom for three programmes | File Photo

The interim bail granted by the Supreme Court to journalist Arnab Goswami in a two-year-old abetment to suicide case of a businessman will remain in force for a period of four weeks even after the Bombay high court decides on his plea for quashing of FIR.

The SC bench in a detailed order gave a prima facie view that the preliminary evaluation of FIR did not establish any abetment to suicide charge.

The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee stated the reasons for granting interim bail to Goswami on November 11.

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The court said the interim bail will remain in force till Bombay HC decides the quashing petition and will remain in force for another four weeks in order to enable Goswami to approach this court.

Also read: Kunal Kamra faces contempt case over tweets on SC bail to Arnab Goswami

Goswami had approached the SC after the Bombay high court refused to grant him bail. The apex court was of the firm view that the HC ought to have taken a prima facie view of the FIR, nature of allegations and it erred in not granting bail.

The court further held that in cases involving liberty of citizens who are targeted by state, the courts must ensure that state does not use “criminal law as a tool to harass or jeopardize liberty (of citizens)”.

On November 11, the bench had said that state cannot target any individual in this manner for keeping divergent ideology or views and that the courts will be duty-bound to protect liberty of citizens.

“We are dealing with a person’s liberty. Across the country, if this court is not to interfere today, we are treading on a path of destruction of liberty….you may dislike a person’s ideology and challenge it but if this is what our states will do to nail persons, we have to put across this message to all high courts to preserve the liberty of citizens,” the bench had said on November 11.

Also read: Post SC relief, Arnab withdraws bail plea from sessions court

Senior advocate Harish Salve, who appeared for Goswami, had on that day argued that his arrest was planned to target him for making unpalatable views against the Maharashtra government and state police in his TV debates. Salve stated the suicide note left by the deceased businessman Anvay Naik mentioned only Rs 88 lakh as unpaid dues against Goswami while others named in suicide note left by Naik owed him larger sums.

The bench even commented on the FIR involved in the case. The court had said, “In a matter of this nature where some amount is already paid and the person commits suicide due to financial stress, will you hold the head of the company for abetment to suicide? In most companies, work orders are given out as a labour contract…. Will it not be travesty of justice to deny bail to such a person when his quashing petition is pending.”

Naik’s wife had approached the police with a complaint against Goswami and two others. The state police had filed a closure report but earlier this year, the police began probe into the case.

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