Arnab Manoranjan Goswami vs the State of Maharashtra & Ors.

The foundation of this case was more political in nature than legal, but this commentary will be focusing on, and restricted to the legal aspects of it. It all started back in the year 2018, when Arnab Goswami, the owner of ARG Outlier Media, and two other accused were booked by the Alibaug Police for abetment of suicide of Anvay Naik and his mother.

The deceased person wrote a suicide note and blamed the three accused for not making transactions of rupees 5.4 crores in total, which were due to Concorde Designs Pvt. Ltd. As per the allegations, ARG Outlier Media owed the person 83 lakh rupees. After an investigation, the police filed an “A” summary report, the magistrate accepted the same, and the case was closed.

The case was recently reopened for investigation and one fine day, the accused were arrested from their homes in the most unacceptable manner one could think of. As soon as the arrests took place, they were produced in front of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Alibaug. She explicitly mentioned that, “There is no nexus between the deceased and the accused.” Hence, she denied police custody and ordered Judicial Custody of the accused. The counsel for the accused also questioned the process of re-investigation, which was not followed as per Section 173(8) of the C.R.P.C, where the consent of the magistrate is a must for re-investigation.

The bail application was moved and a writ petition was also filed in the Bombay High Court to quash the FIR against Arnab under section 482 of the C.R.P.C. The Bombay High Court ruled that the matter was pending before the sessions court. Hence, the High Court did not intervene and rejected the interim bail.

This Judgment was challenged in the Supreme Court and the Court made various observations under the same. A bench consisting of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Indira Banerjee, after looking at the FIR, observed that, “Prima facie, on the application of the test which has been laid down by this court in a consistent line of authority… It cannot be said that the appellant was guilty of having abetted the suicide within the meaning of Section 306 of the IPC.”

The Apex Court also came down heavy on the High Court for not giving the accused bail in the first instance. The bench said, “The High Court abdicated its constitutional duty and function as a protector of liberty. It is the duty of courts across the spectrum — the district judiciary, the high courts and the Supreme Court — to ensure that the criminal law does not become a weapon for the selective harassment of citizens”.

The Supreme Court, after making all these observations, granted interim bail to all the three accused and even questioned the Maharashtra state government’s intentions in this case. The court also held that this was a civil dispute related to commercial transactions and treating it as a criminal offence would infringe on the rights and liberty of citizens. The court even went to the extent of saying that deprivation of liberty even for a single day is one too many days.

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Kirit P. Mehta School of Law Publications