Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami was on Wednesday arrested for allegedly abetting the suicide of a 53-year-old interior designer in 2018, a police official said.
The official said a team of Alibaug police picked up Goswami from his Lower Parel house in the morning. Goswami, who was seen being pushed into the police van, claimed he was assaulted by police at his home, before being taken away.
“Alibaug police arrested Goswami under sections 306 (abetment of suicide), and 34 (acts done by persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.
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This (arrest) pertains to the 2018 case of a man and his mother committing suicide. We have evidence (against Goswami),” the police official said.
“When we gave the intimation (of arrest) to Goswami’s wife, she tore up the paper,” said the official who was present at Goswami’s home when he was picked up by police.
Soon after the vehicle carrying Goswami reached Alibaug, just over 90 km from Mumbai, he was produced in a local court, which directed police to take him to the civil hospital there for a medical check-up, after his lawyer alleged the senior journalist was assaulted by police.
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“Goswami was produced before a magistrate court in Alibaug where he complained of physical assault at the hands of the police team that barged into his house this morning, Goswami’s lawyer Gaurav Parkar said.
The magistrate took note of the allegations and directed the police to take Goswami to the civil hospital for a medical check-up.
Suicide abetment case
“After the medical check-up, Goswami will be brought back to the court for hearing on his remand. The court will consider the medical reports at that time,” Parkar said.
The architect and his mother committed suicide over alleged non-payment of dues by Republic TV, police said.
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In May this year, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh announced he had ordered a fresh probe in the case after a complaint by Adnya Naik, daughter of the architect Anvay Naik.
Deshmukh said Adnya alleged that the Alibaug police had not investigated the alleged non-payment of dues from Goswami’s channel, which she claimed drove her father and grandmother to suicide in May 2018.
Police said Goswami was taken to Alibaug in Raigad district in connection with the suicide case.
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While in the police van, Goswami was seen claiming that police assaulted him and his son and he was also not allowed to meet his in-laws.
Police said that in a suicide note, Anvay Naik, who owned Concorde Designs Pvt Ltd, had claimed that he was ending his life due to non-payment of his dues by Goswami, Feroz Shaikh of IcastX/Skimedia and Niteish Sarda of Smartworks.
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Police said that as per the note, the three firms owed Naiks company Rs 83 lakh, Rs four crore and Rs 55 lakh respectively.
Police said the two others named in the suicide note have also been arrested.
Responding to the claim on non-payment of dues, Republic TV had in a statement said the entire amount owed to Concorde had been paid.
BJP condemns action
Meanwhile, senior BJP leaders reacted strongly to the police action against Goswami.
Terming the Goswami’s arrest as a “blatant misuse of state power”, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the “attack on the free press must be and will be opposed“.
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The home minister also slammed the opposition parties, saying Congress and its allies have “shamed democracy” and that the incident “reminds us of Emergency“.
In a tweet, Shah said, “Congress and its allies have shamed democracy once again. Blatant misuse of state power against Republic TV & Arnab Goswami is an attack on individual freedom and the 4th pillar of democracy“.
“It reminds us of the Emergency. This attack on the free press must be and WILL BE OPPOSED,” he tweeted.
“The way Goswami was arrested shows the mentality of the Congress party and the Maharashtra Government. It is a big blow to the principles of democracy and journalism. I condemn it,” BJP president J P Nadda said.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar described it as “an attack on press freedom” in Maharashtra and said it reminded of the “Emergency days“.
Javadekar tweeted, “We condemn the attack on press freedom in Maharashtra.”
“This is not the way to treat the press. This reminds us of the emergency days when the press was treated like this,” he said.
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Union Minister Smriti Irani condemned Goswami’s arrest, saying if those in the free press don’t stand up in support of him, then they are tactically in support of fascism.
Irani, the Women and Child Development Minister, tweeted, “Those in the free press who don’t stand up today in support of Arnab, you are now tactically in support of fascism. You may not like him, you may disapprove of him, you may despise his very existence, but if you stay silent, you support suppression. Who speaks if you are next?”.
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Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad described the senior journalist’s arrest as “seriously reprehensible, unwarranted and worrisome.” He also questioned the silence of the Congress leadership when its government in Maharashtra was “blatantly suppressing freedom of the press.”
“The arrest of senior journalist Arnab Goswami is seriously reprehensible, unwarranted and worrisome. We had fought for freedoms of the press as well while opposing the draconian Emergency of 1975,” Prasad said in a series of tweets.