BAIL NOT JAIL: Analysing The Arnab Goswami Case

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This work has been written by Kavya Kumar and curated by Rajrishi Ramaswamy, Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad 

Arnab Manoranjan Goswami v. The State of Maharashtra & Ors., 2020 SCC OnLine SC 931

Facts: The appellant, a right-wing journalist and also the Managing Director of ARG Outlier Media Asianet News Private Limited was arrested on an FIR[1] for a case of abetment to suicide of Anvay Naik to whom the appellant (and two others) owed money. The appellant previously filed a petition before the Bombay High Court invoking the writ of Habeas Corpus, asking for quashing of FIR and also pleaded the Court to exercise the extra-judiciary and inherent powers vested in it under Article 226 of the Constitution and Section 482 of the CrPC and grant bail. The HC saw this plea as unnecessary and allowed the appellant to file for regular bail under Section 439 of the CrPC. Aggrieved by the denial of his interim prayer for the grant of bail, the appeal was brought before the Supreme Court.

Issues: The issues addressed were firstly whether the allegations of abetment to suicide as stated in the FIR stand prima facie within the tenets of Section 306 read along with section 34 of the IPC and secondly, whether the Bombay HC was right in denying bail under Article 226 and Section 482 of the CrPC.

Submissions by the Counsels: The appellant’s counsel submitted that there existed malice in the arrest of his client since he broadcasted criticisms about the Maharashtra government and police. It was also stated by the counsel that the recorded FIR does not fulfil the necessities for the crime as stated under Section 306 read with Section 34 of the IPC. For the offence of abetment to exist there must firstly be incitement to commit the crime either directly or indirectly. Secondly, the accused must have an active role in instigating or facilitating the commission of the crime and thirdly, there must be a proximate relationship in time. These essentials, the counsel stated, were not fulfilled in the present case.

The responding counsel, submitted that the High Court was correct in concluding that the facts of the present case did not shock the court enough to invoke extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 for direct release. The counsel reiterated the High Court’s decision regarding the crime of abetment to suicide as under Section 306 read with Section 34 of the IPC as valid.

Judges: The judgement was given by a division bench comprising of honorable judges, J. Dr. Dhaananjaya Y Chandrachud and J. Indira Banerjee

Observations by the Court: The Court noted that for abetment to suicide, the person so accused must have played an active role by instigating or facilitating the commission of suicide by doing a certain act in that direction. To put it simply, there must be provocation. In the present case, the court held that prima facie it cannot be proven that the appellant abetted the suicide within the meaning of Section 306 of the IPC contemplated with Section 107. There existed no guilty mind or intention of the accused. While the deceased may have been in mental anguish on not receiving payment, there was no direct guilty instigation in proximate time on part of the appellant for the commission of the act which is essential for the crime to fall under the ambit of the aforementioned sections. The HC failed to make this evaluation and disabled itself from granting relief to the appellant under Section 482 of the CrPC and also failed to exercise its jurisdiction under Article 226. The Court also stated that these provisions are not a substitute to the remedy of bail as under Section 439 of the CrPC but simply, a recourse that the Courts ought to judicially implement in case rights of an individual are violated.

The Supreme Court emphasized on the role of all Courts in ensuring human liberty. The duty of the Court is to meet the ends of justice while ensuring the process of justice is not abused. The Courts must balance both ends of the spectrum. In the present case the Court believed that appellant was indeed a victim of mala fides and his writ of liberty was at stake and it is the duty of the Court to ensure that Criminal Law does not become a tool of targeted harassment. The court stated that “Liberty survives by the vigilance of her citizens” and the Courts while exercising caution and ensuring no interference takes place in the process of investigation must also safeguard and protect liberty with the inherent powers vested in it.

Judgement by the Court: The court held that the rejection of interim bail by the high court was erroneous and directed the release of the appellant (and co-accused) on interim bail subject to a personal bond of Rs.50,000. The bail would continue to remain in operation till the disposal of the proceedings before the High Court.

Comments: The appellant is a prominently known right wing journalist therefore it is undeniable that the case has a deeper political influence than what can be gauged at the surface. The Secretary General of the Supreme Court Registry listed the case for an urgent hearing while litigants with similar or more pressing cases were kept waiting. Supreme Court Bar Association President, Dushyant Dave brought up this contention in a letter to the Supreme Court and asked whether the Chief Justice of India had given specific orders for such an extraordinarily speedy hearing. Mr. Goswami’s appeal in the Supreme Court took place immediately, only two days after the rejection of interim bail by the Bombay HC.

 

 

 

 

[1] FIR 59 of 2018

 

 

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