Mumbai: The editor-in-chief of the Republic Media Network, Arnab Goswami, was arrested on Wednesday morning amid high drama in connection with a two-year-old abetment to suicide case of an interior designer, Anvay Naik. The two others arrested along with Goswami were identified as Nitesh Sarda and Feroz Shaikh. Naik had committed suicide in 2018 over the alleged non-payment of dues by the three accused.
Late on Wednesday night, after a hearing that lasted almost five hours, the Alibaug court remanded Goswami and the two others to 14-day judicial custody. The court rejected the police plea seeking 14 days of police custody. Goswami has meanwhile approached the Bombay High Court for quashing of the 2018 FIR against him, and the matter is expected to be heard by the High Court on Thursday.
On Wednesday morning, a joint team of Alibaug and Mumbai Police picked up Goswami from his Lower Parel Residence. He was taken to Alibaug and produced before the court. In the court, Goswami's lawyers alleged manhandling by police while he was being taken into custody. The court then asked police to take him to hospital for a check-up before deciding on his police custody remand. Earlier in the day, Goswami was seen being pushed into a police van as he was being taken into custody.
Before the court, Goswami complained of physical assault by the police team that barged into his house on Wednesday morning. However, police claimed,"When we gave the intimation (of arrest) to Goswami's wife, she tore up the paper," said the officer who was present at Goswami's home when he was picked up by police.
While seeking remand of Goswami and the others, police said that, during the latest investigation it was found that there were loopholes in the investigation carried out in 2018-2019 to benefit the accused. Further, police said that the deputy inspector general of police, Konkan Range, had ordered a departmental enquiry against the then Investigaton Officer S H Varhadkar, who was then a police inspector at Alibaug police station.
The 2018 case was closed after police submitted a closure report in court in April 2019, which was accepted by the court. This May, Anvay's wife Akshata met Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh and requested him to reopen the case. Several state ministers were also came out in support of Naik and demanded action in the case, after which Deshmukh ordered the reopening of the case.
On October 15, police inspector J A Shaikh of Local Crime Branch of Raigad-Alibaug submitted a letter to the Alibaug Magistrate court and informed that they had been ordered to investigate the case and told the court they were carrying out further investigation in the case under section 173(8) of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Police file an 'A Summary' report when they do not find evidence in a case and after the court's acceptance, the case gets closed. However, the case can be reopened if police file fresh evidence. In such cases, a court order is not necessary, police can reopen the case by intimating the court, said a senior IPS officer.
In May 2018, Anvay Naik and his mother Kumud were found dead at their bungalow in Alibaug. Police had then said that Anvay had committed suicide while his mother had been strangulated to death. It was believed that Anvay killed her before committing suicide. Police then registered the Accidental Death Report in Anvay's death while a murder case was registered in his mother's case.
During the investigation, police found a suicide note purportedly written by Anvay, in which he said that they both had decided to take extreme step because of their dues were not cleared by the owners of three companies, namely Arnab Goswami of Republic TV, Nitesh Sarda of Smartworks and Firoz Shaikh of IcastX/ Skimedia.
In his suicide note, he had alleged that these three companies owed Rs 83 lakh, Rs 55 lakh and 4 crore respectively to his company, Concorde Designs Pvt Ltd. Goswami had denied these charges and said that he had made the payments. Investigations carried out then had revealed that Anvay was in heavily in debt and was struggling to repay contractors. In April 2019, Raigad Police had filed a closure report in the court, saying they did not find evidence in the case against the three accused named in the suicide note.
Meanwhile, senior BJP leaders reacted strongly to police action against Goswami. Union Home Minister Amit Shah termed Goswami's arrest as a "blatant misuse of state power". Shah tweeted, "Congress and its allies have shamed democracy once again. Blatant misuse of state power against Republic TV & Arnab Goswami is an attack on individual freedom and the 4th pillar of democracy". "It reminds us of the Emergency. This attack on free press must be and WILL BE OPPOSED," he tweeted.
"The way Goswami was arrested shows the mentality of Congress party and Maharashtra Government. It is a big blow to the principles of democracy and journalism. I condemn it," BJP president J P Nadda said.
The Editors Guild of India condemned Goswami’s arrest, calling it “extremely distressing”.
“The Editors Guild of India is shocked to learn about the arrest of Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of Republic TV, in the early hours of Wednesday by the Police. Goswami was arrested from his Mumbai residence reportedly an abetment to suicide case. We condemn the sudden arrest and find it extremely distressing,” the Guild said in a statement.
“The Guild calls upon Chief Minister of Maharashtra to ensure that Goswami is treated fairly and state power is not used against critical reporting by the media,” it added.