We must commend the division bench of Justices S S Shinde and M S Karnik of the Bombay High Court for being completely thorough in their work. They took days to come to the considered opinion that the Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami’s application, based on facts of the case, did not warrant interim relief. If Arnab wanted regular bail, the honourable Justices Shinde and Karnik said, he should knock at the door of the sessions court. They had to hear all sides before making up their mind, judicial, we might add.
It is another matter that their brother judges, with the snapping of their little finger, had freed someone called Salman Khan. Poor Salman Khan! They had wanted to deny him his freedom under Article 21 on a relatively minor charge that in a state of drunkenness he had mowed down under the wheels of his SUV some nameless pavement dwellers, with at least one luckless fellow actually perishing. But, then, the actor was not targeted by the Maharashtra Chief Minister.
Why, a few years before Salman got bailed out in a jiffy, there was this case of the late industrialist L N Thapar. He was found guilty of violating the Foreign Exchange Management Act and was duly arrested. A few hours later, a good judge of the highest court of the land was woken up at midnight from his sleep because the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was a friend of Thapar’s. A few minutes of hearing, and Thapar was free to go. Later, the payment of few lakhs of rupees as penalty ensured that Thapar would never go to jail.
But the case of Arnab Goswami is on an entirely different footing. He is like the most wanted terrorist, who must be kept under lock and key, and the key duly deposited with the Shiv Sena pramukh. However, as concerned citizens, we wonder if Maharashtra can defend itself for having turned itself into a banana republic where journalists can be put into jail on the basis of a long closed case merely because some mentally depressed persons committed suicide before allegedly scribbling a note naming others for their own failure to cope with their situations. We are not aware Shashi Tharoor, the Congress MP, ever faced this treatment from Delhi Police which is handling his wife’s suicide case. Delhi Police, if you should know, is directly under the Modi Government and Tharoor is its most unsparing critic.
We admit these past few days we had erred in persuading ourselves that their lordships would be impressed by the cogent arguments of senior counsel Harish Salve who appeared for Arnab Goswami. Usually, Salve carries weight in all such cases. Justices Shinde and Karnik heard the widely-respected lawyer with patience but in the end, denied him relief. Even if it was written all over that it was a case of arbitrary denial of freedom and liberty in a blatant breach of Article 21, Arnab Goswami would not be given interim bail on extraneous grounds. Period.
He must wait for the sessions court now to exhaust the process of hearing 'all parties' before finding out whether his liberty and freedom is valuable under the eyes of the same law which had famously found Salman Khan’s and L N Thapar’s liberty extraordinarily precious. But, then, didn’t someone say justice was blind? Yes, it chooses to be when some people in authority want it to be. Collaborating in such malicious agendas wittingly or unwittingly has brought disgrace to all institutions, the judiciary being no exception. Reopening the case of abetment of suicide against Goswami itself was a conspiracy.
Meanwhile, those deigning to speak on behalf of the television journalist should cease their duplicitous act. Their life-long fakery comes through. As for the big daddies of the mainline print media, we are left wondering when they would do their cry-boo act at the Press Club of India. Or must the defence of civil liberties and freedom of the press be contingent on one’s political persuasions? Next time there is an income tax raid on a television channel, no public boo-hoo, please.