The judicial magistrate at Alibaug recently took cognizance of the charge sheet filed by Raigad police against Republic TV anchor Arnab Goswami and two other accused in the 2018 Anvay Naik abetment to suicide case.
Senior Advocate Abad Ponda was appearing in the Petition filed by Arnab Goswami, seeking to restraint the magistrate from taking cognizance of the charge sheet. While the arguments were progressing before a bench comprising Justice SS Shinde and MS Karnik, Ponda informed the bench that he got a message that the Magistrate has taken cognizance of the charge sheet. Soon after that, Ponda sought leave to amend the writ petition to bring on record the charge sheet.
The bench recorded that cognizance has been taken on the charge sheet. Also, allowing Ponda's request, the bench directed the Magistrate to expedite the grant of copy of the charge sheet and the case documents on a formal application made by Goswami through his advocate. The bench then adjourned the hearing till 6th January,2020 On 4th December, 2020, Raigad Police filed a 1914 page long charge sheet against Goswami and two others, before a court in Alibaug in neighbouring Raigad district, where the case for alleged abetment of suicide, of interior designer Anvay Naik and his mother Kumud, has been registered. The trio has been charged under IPC Sections 306 (abetment to suicide), 109 (punishment for abetment) and 34 (act done by several people in furtherance of common intention). Soon after that, he filed a petition in the High Court seeking a direction that the Magistrate should not take cognizance of the charge sheet. In the application, Goswami placed reliance on the November 27 judgment passed by the Supreme Court which observed that the allegations in the FIR did not prima facie constitute offence of abetment to suicide under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code. Referring to the observations made by the Supreme Court, Ponda submitted “Justice Chandrachud’s judgement is my best argument”.
The bench responded that the Supreme Court judgement has also clarified that its observations are prima facie in nature. Further, the observations were made at the FIR stage and now the case is at the stage of charge sheet, Justice Shinde, the presiding judge remarked. “The observations of the Supreme Court are prima facie, the judgement has clarified. The judgement is binding only on law and not on facts. The SC has made it clear that the factual observations are preliminary”
, said Justice Shinde. “Earlier, there was lack of clarity on whether interim bail can be granted in Article 226. Now this landmark judgement has come saying even regular bail can be granted under Article 226. This judgement will guide us”
, Justice Shinde added referring to the SC judgement. Ponda has clarified that he was not seeking “automatic quashment”
of the charge sheet based on the Supreme Court judgement. But the judgement has to be respected, he added. At that juncture, Ponda informed the bench that the Magistrate has taken cognizance of the matter. Goswami was arrested by Raigad police on 4th November, 2020 in connection with the case and was remanded to two weeks judicial custody. On 11th November, 2020, the Supreme Court ordered his release from the custody, after the Bombay High Court refused to grant him interim bail. As many as 65 persons are named as witnessed in the charge sheet that runs into 1914 pages. It relies on purported suicide note as the ‘dying declaration’. Naik’s handwriting has been matched with the writing in the suicide note and forensic report indicated that he was not under pressure while writing it, as per the charge sheet. Six statements recorded before a magistrate under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973 are also part of the charge sheet. Such statements can be used as evidence during trial. Anvay Naik and his mother Kumud committed suicide in 2018, allegedly because of non-payment of dues by firms of Goswami and other two accused. The case, closed for want of evidence in 2019, was reopened in May this year, with Goswami alleging that the Maharashtra government was pursuing a vendetta against him for his work as a TV journalist.