The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the release of Republic Media Network's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami and other co-accused in a 2018 abetment to suicide case on interim bail. The court said that the Raigad police should ensure the compliance of the order of release of Arnab Goswami forthwith.
The top court said that the detailed judgment recording the reasons for the order will be released later. The bench was hearing Arnab's plea challenging the Bombay High Court order rejecting his interim bail plea and demanding quashing of FIR against him by the Mumbai Police.
A two-judge bench comprising of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Indira Banerjee highlighted the importance of personal liberty and also sent out a message to the High Courts across the country.
Earlier, a division bench of the Bombay HC comprising Justice SS Shinde and MS Karnik directed the Sessions Court to decide on Arnab Goswami's bail plea within 4 days of his filing the petition, while it rejected the plea. The bench, however, clarified that its observations are prima facie in nature and will not apply to the application made by the Republic Media Network's Editor-in-Chief seeking regular bail. It held that the rejection of the interim bail plea will not be construed as an impediment to Arnab seeking alternative remedies.
During the hearing, Justice Chandrachud pointed out that a case of abetment cannot be made if active incitement and encouragement are not involved.
The SC asked, "If money is owed to a person, is that a case of Abetment to suicide?" Highlighting personal liberty, the top Court further asked, "Assuming the FIR is the gospel truth and that's a matter of investigation but is not paying up money Abetment to suicide? It will be a Travesty of justice if bail is not granted while FIR is pending?"
When the lawyers at the opposite side argued, that the top court shouldn't interfere as the matter is pending in the sessions court, the SC bench said, "Technicality cannot be a ground to deny someone personal liberty. This is not a case of terrorism."
Terming that if Courts do not interfere in the case, it will be injustice, the Supreme Court bench noted, "Travelling to the path of destruction if the court does not interfere today. Whatever be his ideology, lest I don't even watch his channel but if in this case, constitutional courts do not interfere today - we are travelling the path of destruction undeniably."
In a major message to the High Courts across the country, Justice Chandrachud said, "We must send a message today to the High Courts as well. Please exercise your jurisdiction to uphold personal liberty! Case after case, High courts are denying personal liberty. If we as a constitutional court do not lay down law and protect liberty then who will?" Moreover, the Court observed that the Bombay High Court wrote a 50+ page order but has not dealt with the ingredients of the offence.
The Supreme Court also came down heavily on action taken by Shiv Sena against Arnab, as narrated by Senior advocate Harish Salve in the top court. "Our democracy is extraordinarily resilient. Governments must ignore all this. This is not the basis on which elections are fought."