Holding that the Bombay High Court was incorrect in not giving bail, the Supreme Court on Wednesday granted interim bail to Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami and two others in connection with the 2018 abetment to suicide case.
A two-judge bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee ordered the release of Goswami and two other accused on interim bail on a bond of Rs 50,000 and directed the Commissioner of Police to ensure the order is followed immediately. The bench, which was hearing a petition filed by Goswami seeking bail and challenging the 9 November order of the Bombay High Court refusing relief, also directed Goswami and others to cooperate with the investigation in the case.
“They shall not make any attempt to influence witnesses,” the bench said and added that personal bond should be executed before the jail superintendent.
During the hearing, senior advocate Harish Salve appearing for Goswami claimed his client was being targeted and listed various cases and actions against Goswami by the Maharashtra government and the police.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Maharashtra government, asked how can bail be granted only on the basis of FIR. “The FIR it is information, either you probe it or quash it. It is not an encyclopedia. An investigation is in progress. Today there is evidence on record. There cannot be a grant of bail without looking at the evidence. The court is not allowing us to file the papers. There is a judicial remand order. There is an investigation,” he said.
Sibal said the court should wait for day after tomorrow and not lay down this precedence and added that when extraordinary orders are passed in extraordinary cases, it has repercussions. “How do you decide the intention in a suicide case? Only on facts and evidence. This cannot be a principle that the Court will grant bail just reading the FIR, this principle will be followed in all High Courts. The investigation is going on. Remand is ordered. Now, the court cannot tell that read the FIR and see if offence made out to grant bail. It’s a dangerous precedent,” he added.
Sibal also mentioned that recently Siddiqui Kappan, a journalist from Kerala who went to cover the Hathras incident, was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police. Sibal said the journalist had approached the top court but was asked to go to the High Court and asked to come again if he does not get bail.
Appearing for Mumbai Police, senior advocate Amit Desai said if this court makes an exception, it will have grave ramifications on the administration of the criminal justice system. “If every accused comes and says FIR does not disclose an offence and bail be granted then it will be a different situation of courts and it will disrupt the entire scheme of the criminal justice system,” Desai said.
He also questioned why did Arnab Goswami not move a court to quash the FIR in 2018? Responding to it, Salve said it is being argued that a citizen’s liberty is not important and procedural hierarchy has to be given importance. “Goswami has been arrested on the basis of FIR. The magistrate has nothing more. They will do what they are doing in TRP scam case, they will get someone to make witnesses,” he added.
Claiming that the re-investigation ordered by Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh was illegal and ultra vires, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for co-accused Nitesh Sarda, said a minister had no jurisdiction to sit over a court order.
Senior advocate C.U. Singh, appearing for victim Anvay Naik’s wife, said they were never served the closure report on the investigation, which he claimed is mandatory, and added “we didn’t know about it till May and only got to know about it through a tweet”.
“The sentiments expressed by this court are to be cherished by all. But here it’s not about Goswami but because of the fact that he has already moved a bail application yet to be heard. What kind of a message will it send and short circuit an entire process?” he pointed out.
Justice Chandrachud, during the hearing, observed that they are seeing dozens and dozens of cases where district courts, High Courts do not grant bail. “If we as a constitutional court do not lay down law and protect liberty then who will? You may not like his (Arnab) ideology… But if a citizen is sent to jail, if High Courts don’t grant bail. We have to send a strong message,” Justice Chandrachud said.
“Our democracy is extraordinarily resilient. Governments must ignore all this. This is not the basis on which elections are fought,” Justice Chandrachud said pointing out that a strong message needs to be sent if a state is targetting an individual.
On 4 November, Goswami and two others were arrested in connection with the 2018 suicide case. Later, they were sent to 14-day judicial custody by a lower court later that day.
The suicide case, in which a closure report was filed in 2019, was reopened after Naik’s wife Akshata approached a court. In September this year, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had ordered a re-investigation into the case after a fresh complaint by Naik’s daughter.
WITH ANI INPUTS
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MACRON CALLS BENNETT ON ALLEGATIONS OF SNOOPING
JERUSALEM: According to a media report, French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken to Israeli PM Naftali Bennett regarding reports that Morocco’s security forces may have used the Pegasus spyware to snoop on his cellphones,.
A global media consortium last week reported that 50,000 cellphone numbers were being spied on using the Pegasus malware, which has been developed by Israeli cybersecurity company NSO Group. The mobile phones of French President Macron and 15 members of his government may have been among potential targets, according to a member of the media consortium.
Macron called Bennett on Thursday and asked him to ensure that “the issue was being taken seriously”, Israel’s Channel 12 reported on Saturday evening. The Israeli PM said that the allegations are from a period when he had not assumed office but assured that the required conclusions on the matter will be reached upon. Macron had called an urgent national security meeting on Thursday to discuss the Pegasus spyware after reports about its misuse in France emerged.
IN A FIRST, SAUDI WOMEN STAND GUARD IN MECCA
MECCA: Dozens of female soldiers have become a part of the security services that monitor pilgrims in Mecca and Medina, the birthplaces of Islam. This is a significant stride towards women empowerment.
For the first time, Saudi female soldiers are standing guard in Mecca as thousands of Muslim pilgrims take part in this year’s Hajj, as per Deutsche Welle report.
Women dressed in military khaki uniforms were seen monitoring the security situation in the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Along with khaki, they were sporting a hip-length jacket, loose trousers, and a black beret over a veil covering their hair. While adhering to Covid-19 protocols, thousands of vaccinated Muslim pilgrims gathered at Mecca to perform Hajj.
According to Al Jazeera, 10,000 vaccinated Muslim pilgrims circled Islam’s holiest site in Mecca last Sunday, but remained socially distanced and wore masks as the Coronavirus takes its toll on the Hajj for a second year running.
63 dead, 5 missing in China’s flood-hit Henan
HENAN: The death toll from the heavy rains and floods that hit China’s central province of Henan has risen to 63, while five people remain missing as of Sunday.
More than 852,000 people were relocated. Some 876.6 thousand hectares of crops were affected and 24,474 houses collapsed, reported Global Times. Torrential rains have battered Henan province since last weekend. Several videos surfaced on social media showing the severity of the flooding.
Zhengzhou, the provincial capital of 12 million people, is one of the worst-hit areas.
Zhengzhou’s meteorological station has described the level of rainfall as “once in a thousand years.”
Henan’s water resources department, meanwhile, has called rain levels in parts of the province “once in 5,000 years.”
XI JINPING MEETS TOP MILITARY OFFICIALS IN LHASA
Chinese President Xi Jinping, 68, made his first official visit to Tibet from Wednesday to Friday. But his important visit was kept under wraps by China’s official media till the end of the tour on Friday due to the sensitivities of the trip.
Xi underlined the importance of long-term stability and prosperity in Tibet during a meeting with top military officials in Lhasa, the state media reported on Saturday, a day after he made aunannounced visit to the strategically important region, including to Nyingchi, a town close to the border with Arunachal Pradesh.
Xi, who is also General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, met top officials of the Tibet Military Command of the People’s Liberation Army, guarding China’s border with India in Arunachal Pradesh, and also called for “fully strengthening the work of training soldiers and war preparation,” as per the CPC-run tabloid Global Times report.
As part of his trip, he first went to Nyingchi, a strategically located town close to the border with Arunachal Pradesh. On Thursday, Xi went to Nyingchi Railway Station. It was the first time in recent years, a top Chinese leader visited the Tibetan border town. From there he went to the provincial capital Lhasa by the recently launched high-speed train.
He wound up his visit to the politically sensitive Himalayan region on Friday by meeting “representatives of troops stationed in Tibet”.
“Xi met with representatives of troops stationed in Tibet, calling for efforts to strengthen military training and preparedness in all aspects and make contributions to the lasting stability, prosperity and development of Tibet,” as per the state-run Xinhua news agency report.
However, the Global Times said that Xi, in his meeting with the PLA representatives, stressed “the local troops should fully strengthen the work of training soldiers and war preparation and contribute positive strength to promote the long-term stability and prosperity of Tibet”.
Xi’s first visit to Tibet took place amidst the current India-China military tensions in eastern Ladakh.
According to Xinhua, Xi visited the Tibet Autonomous Region in connection with the 70th anniversary of Tibet’s “peaceful liberation the first time in the history of the Party and the country.”
He extended congratulations to the 70th anniversary of Tibet’s peaceful liberation, visited officials and ordinary people of various ethnic groups and conveyed the CPC Central Committee’s care to them, the report said.
CHINA DISMANTLING PEACE IN AFGHAN BY COLLUDING WITH PAK, TALIBAN: COLUMNIST
New Delhi: A columnist from Jammu and Kashmir, Farooq Ganderbali, on Sunday, blamed China for dismantling peace in Afghanistan by collaborating with Pakistan and supporting the Taliban. Ganderbali tweeted,“China is trying to dismantle peace in the region by collaborating With Pakistan and supporting Taliban, all this at a time when peace and civilian rule of democracy was getting restored in the great nation of Afghanistan. The adventures of Pak-China will kill stability for Afghan.” He often writes in a Pakistani Newspaper Pakistan Christian Post highlighting the plights of the Christian minority in the country. Ganderbali is also the founder of Peace and Justice Forum.
With the US troops’ drawdown from Afghanistan on the verge of completion, a new terror axis is emerging in the Afghan-Pak geopolitical theatre with the convergence of interests between Pakistan and China. Amid the Taliban’s increasing grip over Afghanistan, Pakistan has dropped all pretensions of being an ally of the US led-western countries despite the much-needed American safety net on key issues that have a direct impact on its economy, wrote Fabien Baussart in The Times of Israel.
“We will no longer allow China’s Uyghur separatist fighters (from Xinjiang),” Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said in a widely circulated interview. Taliban spokesperson admitted that some Uyghur had previously sought refuge in Afghanistan. He, however, promised not to host them.
According to Baussart, the Taliban can be as duplicitous as their patrons. “Well, China may hope to leverage its money power against any likelihood of a breach in the promise by the Taliban; such a hope, even after its Pakistan experience, exposes its inability not to look beyond the nose.” From all accounts, he stated that China seeks to fill the unfolding void in Afghanistan. “It is ready with cash and weapons that the Taliban may need in case the nationalist forces try to checkmate its expansion within the country.”
INDIA AND PAKISTAN NEED TO WORK TOGETHER TO RESOLVE BILATERAL ISSUES: US
WASHINGTON: The United States has said that India and Pakistan need to work with each other to resolve their bilateral issues, observing that it had always encouraged the two neighbours to build a more stable relationship going forward. “With regard to India-Pakistan, I would just note that we strongly believe that India and Pakistan’s issues are ones for them to work out between themselves,” .
During a conference call on Friday, Dean Thompson, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs told reporters, “We are pleased to see that the ceasefire that went into place earlier this year is — has remained intact, and we certainly always encourage them to continue their efforts to find ways to build a more stable relationship going forward.” Thompson said this in response to a question. —Correspondent
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