Arnab Manoranjan Goswami v. The State of Maharashtra and Ors.
Criminal Appeal No. 742-744 of 2020 dated 27-November-2020
Bench: D.Y. Chandrachud, Indira Banerjee, JJ.
The present case arises from the habeas corpus petition filed by the appellant challenging the order of Bombay High Court which refused to grant him and other two co-accused interim bail. The three accused were arrested by Alibaug police in Maharashtra’s Raigad district on November 4 in connection with the suicide of architect-interior designer Anvay Naik and his mother in 2018 over alleged non-payment of dues by companies of the accused. The Bombay High Court, while rejecting the interim bail pleas had said, “no case has been made out for us (court) to exercise our extraordinary jurisdiction”. The high court instead asked them to approach the trial court for relief. Aggrieved by such order, the appellants challenged the order of High Court.
The Supreme Court considered the following issue:
1. Whether the order of Bombay High Court denying bail to the appellants is justified and in accordance with the law? If not, whether the accused and co-accused should be granted bail?
Shri Harish Salve, learned senior counsel submitted that:
1. The arrest of the appellant is rooted in malice in fact, which is evident from the manner in which the appellant as the Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV and R Bharat has been targeted for his news broadcasts criticizing the Maharashtra government and the Maharashtra police.
2. Following the acceptance of the police report and the issuance of an ‘A’ summary on 16 April 2019, the reinvestigation which has been ordered at the behest of the Home Minister of the State of Maharashtra is ultra vires. Further, in the absence of the specific permission of the CJM, it was not open to the State to conduct a reinvestigation.
Shri Amit Desai, learned senior counsel submitted that:
1. A hierarchy of courts is provided for to consider an application for bail under Section 439 of the CrPC. In the present case, there is no valid basis to by-pass that hierarchy in order to grant relief to the appellant.
2. An application for bail was initially filed on behalf of the appellant which was withdrawn after the order for judicial custody was passed. An application for bail has been filed after the High Court while reserving judgment granted liberty to do so with a direction for its disposal within four days. Hence, it is appropriate that the appellant is relegated to pursue the remedies under Section 439.
The Supreme Court after due consideration of the facts of the case and submissions granted bail to the appellant and two other co-accused. The Supreme Court observed that courts should ensure that criminal law does not become a weapon for selective harassment of citizens. The court further observed that prima facie, it could not be held that the appellants had abetted the suicide of Anvay Naik. Furthermore, the Supreme Court held that the High Court had failed to establish whether or not there was a prima facie case under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code (abetment to suicide) against the journalist. Highlighting the factors that High Courts need to consider while deciding to exercise jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution for grant of bail, the Supreme Court noted,
“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.”
The bench also asserted that the High Court had failed to consider that Goswami was made a target on previous occasions. The Supreme Court, hence, disposed the appeals and remarked that:
“We have given expression to our anguish in a case where a citizen has approached this court. We have done so in order to reiterate principles which must govern countless other faces whose voices should not go unheard.”