Observing that the Maharashtra government has enough powers to order further investigation of a closed case, the Bombay High Court on Monday denied bail to Republic TV editor Arnab Goswami. The court has asked him to follow procedure and first approach a sessions court for regular bail.
In a separate development, a magistrate court in Alibaug permitted police to interrogate Goswami in the Taloja prison for three hours daily in connection with the case. The Alibaug sessions court is already hearing a plea for police custody of Goswami for interrogation. The police had filed a revision application against a magistrate court's order which had sent him to judicial custody while the police had sought his custody for 14 days for investigation. The bench of Justices Sambhaji Shinde and Makarand Karnik, while denying bail, has asked Arnab to approach a sessions court which has to decide the plea, possibly within four days.
Goswami, along with one Firoze Shaikh and Niteish Sarda, all named in the suicide note of architect Anvay Naik, had petitioned the bench, seeking interim bail.
The judges trashed two major contentions raised by Arnab through senior counsels Harish Salve and Abad Ponda. The senior advocates stressed the fact that the police didn't obtain any permission from a magistrate and proceeded with reopening an already dead case, which was closed after an A-summary report was filed.
Another contention they had raised was that the state government lacked powers to order further probe as the same were conferred only upon courts.
Disagreeing with these contentions, the judges, in their 56-page judgment noted, "The fact that the magistrate did not give notice and opportunity to the Naik family to file a protest petition before accepting the A-summary report, goes to the root of the matter. Also, the continuous persuasion of the state government by the family for redressal of its grievance since two of its members had committed suicide."
"In this background, when the concerned investigating officer, after intimating the magistrate, commences further investigation, it cannot be said to be irregular or illegal by any stretch of imagination. The victim’s rights are equally important, like the rights of the accused," Justice Shinde said.
The bench further said it would not accept Arnab's contention against further probe being conducted. "This, we say because, the magistrate, while accepting the A-summary report had not granted any opportunity to the Naik family to file their say in the matter and had not even intimated them about this closure report," the bench said.
"Merely because the magistrate has accepted the A-summary report, that would not mean and preclude the concerned investigating officer to commence further investigation after giving intimation to the jurisdictional magistrate," the judges held.
As far as the powers of state ordering further probe was concerned, the judges said, "There is no manner of doubt in our minds that the state government can always direct a further probe to the concerned police officers, as done in the present case."
Having perused the records placed before them, the judges noted that before carrying out further probe against Arnab and two others in this case, the concerned magistrate was intimated about the same and accordingly, the statements of certain witnesses were recorded only after being permitted by the chief judicial magistrate.
"In our opinion, further probe cannot be termed as illegal and without seeking permission of the magistrate," the judges ruled, while denying bail to Arnab.
Meanwhile, Goswami, in a bail plea filed before the Alibaug sessions court through his advocate Gaurav Parkar, said that the ingredients of the offence of abetment to suicide were not made out in the case and that three unconnected persons had been made accused. The plea stated that due to defects and other breaches of the work orders, the last three instalments amounting to Rs 74.23 lakh, were withheld from the deceased Anvay Naik’s company by Arnab's company, pending rectification of the defects. It also said that Naik’s company Concorde had been unable to meet the dates set for completion of work on several occasions and that Goswami did not have a direct relationship with Naik in his personal capacity, but only a contractual relationship existed between their respective companies that was strictly commercial in nature. Further, it stated, police had conducted an investigation in the case where they had filed an A-summaryreport in April 2019 which had been accepted by the court, without challenging the order accepting the report.