Arnab Goswami Bail: Law Not A Tool For Selective Harassment, Says SC

SC observed that FIR did not establish the ingredients of the offence of abetment of suicide in Arnab Goswami case.

The Supreme Court on Friday extended Republic TV Editor-In-Chief Arnab Goswami's interim bail in a two-year-old abetment to suicide case. The judiciary should ensure criminal law does not become a weapon for the selective harassment of citizens, the apex court said and added that by keeping Goswami's petition pending for over a month, resulted in "liberty becoming a casualty".

A bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee further observed that the Bombay High Court had abdicated its constitutional duty and function as a protector of liberty when it failed to make "even a prima facie evaluation" of the FIR filed against Goswami and two others. The top court's observations came in its detailed and reasoned order of its November 11 decision granting interim bail to Goswami, Feroz Mohammed Shaikh and Neetish Sarda.

The Supreme Court added, "a prima facie evaluation of the FIR does not establish the ingredients of the offence of abetment of suicide under Section 306 of the IPC."

The three accused have been granted protection for an additional period of four weeks from the date of the high court judgment "should it become necessary for all or any of them to take further recourse to their remedies in accordance with the law," the 55-page order read.

In the November 11 order, the vacation bench of the apex court had observed that that the High court on November 9, "was in error of rejecting the application for granting interim bail" and had directed the release "forthwith" of the three accused on the execution of a personal bond amounting to Rs. 50,000 each.

On November 3, the Maharashtra police had arrested Goswami from his Mumbai residence for allegedly abetting the suicide of an interior designer and his mother. An Alibaug sessions court had remanded Goswami to judicial custody till November 18. Anvay Naik, the interior designer, and his mother Kumud died by suicide over non-payment of dues.

Also Read: Supreme Court Grants Interim Bail to Republic TV's Arnab Goswami

In the meantime, Liberty is a casualty: SC

The Supreme Court also punched holes in the FIR accusing Goswami of abetting Naik's suicide and said the absence of even prima facie evaluation of the most basic issue was a striking aspect of the High Court's judgment. "The High Court, in other words, failed to apply its mind to a fundamental issue which needed to be considered…," the top court said. By denying interim bail and keeping the petition pending for over the month resulted in liberty becoming a casualty, it added. The supreme court was referring to the high court's order where after denying Goswami interim relief, it had posted the matter for hearing on December 10.

If the high court had considered the contents of the FIR, "it would (as we have held in this judgment) have been apparent that the ingredients of the offence have not prima facie been established," the supreme court order read. "As a consequence of its failure to perform its function…the High Court has disabled itself from exercising its jurisdiction…" the top court's order further read.

Also Read: Bombay HC Rejects Interim Bail To Republic TV Editor Arnab Goswami

Courts must ensure criminal law does not become a weapon for the selective harassment of citizens

The high court abdicated its constitutional duty and function as a protector of liberty when it failed to make even a prima facie evaluation of the FIR. "Courts must be alive to the need to safeguard the public interest in ensuring that the due enforcement of criminal law is not obstructed. The fair investigation of crime is an aid to it," the verdict authored by Justice Chandrachud read.

The order further said it was the duty of courts across the spectrum – the district judiciary, the High Courts and the Supreme Court – to ensure that, criminal law does not become a weapon for the selective harassment of citizens. "Courts should be alive to both ends of the spectrum – the need to ensure the proper enforcement of criminal law on the one hand and the need, on the other, of ensuring that the law does not become a ruse for targeted harassment".

The order also said that courts must strive to remain the first line of defense against the deprivation of the liberty of citizens. "Deprivation of liberty even for a single day is one day too many. The consequence for those who suffer incarceration are serious...Courts must be alive to the situation as it prevails on the ground – in the jails and police stations where human dignity has no protector," the top court judge said expressing his anguish.

Also Read: Arnab Goswami's Arrest: What Is The Case All About?

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