Supreme Court on Friday has extended journalist Arnab Goswami’s interim bail for another four weeks and cited the reasons behind granting the bail in the abetment to suicide case against him. The court held that criminal law doesn’t become a weapon for selective harassment of citizens.
The order was announced by the Supreme Court bench of Justice D Y Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee. “Prima facie, on the application of the test which has been laid down by this Court in a consistent line of authority which has been noted above, it cannot be said that the appellant was guilty of having abetted the suicide within the meaning of Section 306 of the IPC,” the bench stated.
The court noted, “We are clearly of the view that in failing to make even a prima facie evaluation of the FIR, the High Court abdicated its constitutional duty and function as a protector of liberty.”
The bench passed the order with the detailed reasoning behind the grant of interim bail on November 11 to the Republic TV Editor-in-Chief in the abetment to suicide case of the architect Anvay Naik and his mother.
The court also stated that the High Court was not able to establish whether there was a prima facie case against Arnab Goswami under Section 306 of IPC.
“The striking aspect of the impugned judgment of the High Court spanning over fifty-six pages is the absence of any evaluation even prima facie of the most basic issue. The High Court, in other words, failed to apply its mind to a fundamental issue which needed to be considered while dealing with a petition for quashing under Article 226 of the Constitution or Section 482 of the CrPC,” the bench observed.
The bench also highlighted the provisions under Article 226 of the Constitution which Bombay High Court should consider while granting bail to the journalist and stated, “the appellants are residents of India and do not pose a flight risk during the investigation or the trial. There is no apprehension of tampering of evidence or witnesses. Taking these factors into consideration, the order dated 11 November 2020 envisaged the release of the appellants on bail.”
Justice Chandrachud further added, “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. Equally, it is the duty of courts across the spectrum – the district judiciary, the High Courts and the Supreme Court – to ensure that the criminal law does not become a weapon for the selective harassment of citizens.”
The bench thereafter passed an order stating that the interim bail will remain in operation till the matter is pending before the High Court and for another four weeks after the announcement of the verdict by Bombay High Court.
A vacation bench of SC on November 11 granted him bail who was in custody for a week. The bench held that Bombay HC was wrong at denying the interim bail to Goswami on November 7. Thereafter, the court had issued directions to release Arnab Goswami and the other two accused on a bond of Rs 50,000.