Arnab Goswami case and Powers of the High Court under Article 226

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Arnab Goswami case

Written by: Ms Devshree Dangi

The Indian Constitution has given six fundamental Rights to every individual of the nation. These fundamental Rights play an important role in maintaining peace around the nation. The Constitutional Courts, The Hon’ble Supreme Court and The Hon’ble High Courts are there to protect the fundamental rights of the people of India. The Supreme Court and High Court have Writ jurisdiction under Article 32 and Article 226 of the Indian Constitution.

A recent landmark judgment of the Supreme Court is an example that the Constitutional courts have always been protecting the Fundamental Rights of the people of its nation.

It was a case of abetment of suicide in the year 2018. In this case, an editor in chief of a news channel and two others were accused of abetment of suicide under section 306 of the Indian Penal Code. 

On 5th May 2018, a Mumbai based interior designer Mr Anvay Nayak attempted suicide. And on the same day in the same house, his mother’s dead body was also found. At the place of suicide, a suicide note has found that was written by Anvay Nayak. He wrote in his suicide note that the reason behind attempting suicide is the financial problems faced by him. He also blamed Republic TV Editor in chief Arnab Goswami and two others for his death. He wrote that these three people didn’t pay him for his work due to which he faced a financial crisis and attempted suicide.

After this incident, an FIR had been lodged by Anvay Nayak’s family but due to the absence of evidence, the case was closed in April 2019. Anvay Nayak’s family wanted this case to be investigated properly but as there was no evidence against the accused the file had been closed. 

But after two years in May 2020, a representation of this case was made by Anvay Nayak’s daughter to State Home Minister Mr Anil Deshmukh. The case was reopened for reinvestigation on 15 October 2020.

After reinvestigation of this case on 4th November Arnab Goswami and two others got arrested by the Raigarh Police. Allegedly, Mumbai Police dragged Arnab Goswami and forcefully tried to take him out of his house. Arnab’s Advocate has said that Arnab got injured while getting arrested by Mumbai Police. Arnab was taken to the Alibag police station. The chief judicial magistrate rejected the plea of Raigarh police who had sought police custody. 14 days of judicial custody was remanded to Arnab Goswami.

The arrest was made without prior notice so it was criticized by a  large number of people in the country on the ground of the violation of the Right to Personal Liberty. In this way, there was a huge public outrage on social media platforms on Arnab’s arrest without any prior notice.

After the arrest, an appeal for interim bail was made by Arnab Goswami before the Bombay High Court but Bombay High Court denied the request on  9th November and asked him to approach the Session Courts for bail as there was no case made for an extraordinary hearing.

As his appeal for interim bail was denied by the Bombay High Court Arnab Goswami appealed in Supreme Court against the order passed by the Bombay High Court. After Arnab’s appeal in Supreme Court, this case was urgently listed in the Supreme Court on the grounds that it was a matter of protecting someone’s Fundamental Rights.

When an urgent listing took place in Supreme Court on the very next day of the appeal, it was criticized by many advocates of the Supreme Court on the ground that other appeals of bail were pending then why Arnab’s appeal was given preference. But later the Supreme Court gave an explanation over this matter and stated that it was a concern of protecting the fundamental rights of a person and it has to be protected by the Constitutional Court.

The case was heard by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Indira Banerjee. After the hearing of this case, the Supreme Court granted interim bail to Arnab Goswami stating that no criminal law can be used as a weapon to harass anyone. The Apex Court further stated that the Bombay High Court was wrong in denying Arnab Goswami an interim bail on Nov 9. Supreme Court Said Prima facie, on the basis of an application of the test that has been noted it cannot be said that the accused was guilty of abetment of suicide under section 306 of IPC.  

The Supreme Court stated, “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 functioned as a protector of liberty.”

It was furthermore directed by the Supreme Court bench consisting of two judges, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Indira Banerjee to all the higher and lower courts of the country that in the cases involving personal liberty issues the principle of “bail not jail” has to be enforced that is bail will be a rule and jail will be an exception.

The Supreme Court has granted interim bail to Arnab Goswami and two other accused of abetment of suicide directing them to be released immediately on a bond of Rs. 50,000.

Our courts must ensure that they continue to remain the first line of defence against the deprivation of the liberty of citizens. Deprivation of liberty even for a single day is one day too many. We must always be mindful of the deeper systemic implications of our decisions” Said the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court further stated that the High Courts have jurisdiction over such cases where the Fundamental Rights of a person infringed. The High Courts have given Jurisdiction under Article 226 and the inherent power under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Bombay High Court didn’t use this power and failed in protecting someone’s Fundamental Right of personal liberty.

“Doors of courts cannot be closed in such cases and courts should remain open for all cases of deprivation of personal liberty and such deprivation cannot be even for one day.” Supreme Court stated.

The consequences for those who suffer incarceration are serious. Common citizens without the means or resources to move the High Courts or this Court languish as under trials. 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 judgment says. 

With this landmark judgment of Arnab Manoranjan Goswami vs. the State of Maharashtra, the Supreme Court has proved that nothing can deprive a person of his fundamental rights. The Supreme Court has urgently listed the case of Arnab Goswami as it was concerned with the violation of the fundamental right of a person. It is the duty of these constitutional courts to protect the fundamental rights of the citizens of India. So the question that is being raised again and again is why this case gets preference of the Supreme Court is inappropriate in nature.

“If this court were not to interfere today, we are travelling on a path of destruction of personal liberty undeniably,” said the Supreme Court.

This was a historic judgment by the Supreme Court. In the pronounced verdict, it was said by Justice DV Chandrachud and Justice Indira Banerjee that the interim order shall remain in operation till further proceedings and the parties can pursue a further remedy.

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