Arresting Arnab: On Maharashtra Police action

The arrest of Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of Republic Media Network, is, without doubt, a high-handed action that may contain an element of vendetta. There was really no reason to arrest Mr. Goswami, or any other citizen for that matter, in a case that has been reopened after being formally closed by a competent court in 2019. It might be true that the police then may have, under political influence, unlawfully closed a complaint that Mr. Goswami and two others had abetted the suicide of Anvay Naik, an interior designer in May 2018, and that there may be sufficient cause for it to be investigated afresh. Given the presence of an incriminating suicide note, there may be some substance in the allegation. However, there is no reason to arrest anyone, unless they are likely to evade trial, threaten witnesses or destroy evidence. It would have been more appropriate if the police had investigated the matter thoroughly and filed a charge sheet in a court of law if there was sufficient evidence to believe that the conduct of the accused had driven the victim to suicide. The transactions and agreements involved and the testimony of the family may have been enough to seek a conviction under Section 306 of the IPC, which essentially requires sound evidence of acts that directly or indirectly incited victims to take their own lives.

Claims by almost all Union Ministers that Mr. Goswami’s arrest bespeaks an attempt to throttle the media, however, have no substance, as it is obviously a case unrelated to his work as a television anchor. At the same time, the manner in which a matter can be reopened and the accused arrested might have a chilling effect on other journalists with better credentials than Mr. Goswami. There is no love lost between him and the police in Maharashtra, possibly due to the impression that he himself has given about where his loyalties lie. It is conceivable that his arrest may be an unsavoury extension of the continuing acrimony between the Shiv Sena and the BJP. He already has pending FIRs against him for allegedly making inflammatory remarks on air. He is an outspoken critic of the Maharashtra government. Besides running down the police in connection with the Sushant Singh Rajput death probe, he has been taunting the Mumbai Police Commissioner ever since his channels came under investigation for allegedly fixing TRPs. In this backdrop, the onus was on the State and the police to avoid the impression of resorting to vendetta. Mr. Goswami, as part of his nightly fulminations against assorted enemies of the state, is known to demand the arrest of anyone he denounces — including many who may be innocent — and has been accused of hate-mongering in the name of journalism. However, he should not be held to his own low standards. If pre-trial arrests are not necessary, they should be avoided, especially if they could be seen as politically motivated.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2021 1:01:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/arresting-arnab-goswami-the-hindu-editorial-on-maharashtra-police-action/article33033003.ece

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