The Supreme Court Judgment granting interim bail to journalist Arnab Goswami will go down in history as the new Magna Carta of individual liberty in India. The common people on the street, who were getting disillusioned at police and/or state behaviour, saw his own self in the incarceration of Arnab Goswami. The police can fix anyone without check. In that sense, the apex court’s decision has restored faith of people on institutions and brought a big relief to the agitating minds all across the country.
Why I am calling this a new Magna Carta? The court’s general rule as mandated by various judgments and observations of the Supreme Court has been that bail, not jail, is the norm and jail is an exception — allowed only in cases of grievous crimes. But this principle is violated with impunity. The lower courts are very parsimonious in granting bail. So the result is a long delay and the person has to spend time in police custody unless the court grants judicial custody. From lower Trial Court to District and Session Court and then to High Court. And if one is still unlucky one has to approach the Supreme Court.
One keeps running from pillar to post in search of justice, spends lot of money on legal fight and if he is lucky he would get bail. By this time he has already spent lot of time in jail. For him jail is jail irrespective of whether it is police custody or judicial custody. He gets hopeless and completely disillusioned.
Let us know why everyone who champions individual liberty quotes Magna Carta of 1215. This is considered a great charter of individual freedom and has stood the test of time. This operated even when there are reasonable restrictions. The famous statement of the charter is:
This is a charter that guides the protection of individual freedom in liberal democracies. If there is a fire in neighbour’s house, you have reasons to stop the fire. Thinking that you are safe is the biggest delusion you can subject yourself too. You can’t wait for your turn when you see that your colleague is being tortured even when you have serious reservations. Your silence is approval and ratification of the misdeeds. Next time it could be you.
I am aghast at the way people in media opposed to Arnab’s style chose to be silent. They, on the contrary, tried to attack Arnab, saying that in other states too, media persons have been arrested and sent to jail. Why talk especially for Arnab was their common refrain. I was hurt by this argument. The court treats every case as different and hence there are so many cases. I tried to reason why they behaved in this particular fashion.
Is it because journalism to them is a medium to further a particular ideology by setting agenda? Indian philosophy assumes that none has a monopoly over the truth. It is the context that decides one’s arguments about the truth. We have a culture of debate and not beheading the non-believers. That is why even Charvaka who believed in enjoying life to the fullest is considered a rishi (sage). On the other hand Socrates was sentenced to death by poison for questioning old beliefs and Gods.
The larger issue is if or not our media persons are influenced too much by thoughts of the Western value system of the old times and the Islamist ideology or the ideology of Communism. The old Christian values that dominated the ancient civilisations of the West, leading to much bloodshed through the Crusade, has been replaced by Islamists who wish to convert the entire world into followers of Islam. The so-called communist ideology has led to bloodshed all across the globe. Millions and millions have been killed.
Indian media dominated by Left, Liberal and Islamists are being challenged by the ideology of Indian nationalism. While there are others too who have suffered from the Hegemonistic existence of this cabal, they tend to succumb either to gain respectability or for pecuniary benefits. Arnab has emerged as the ultimate challenger to their ganging up.
He has raised issues that have brought discomfort to the State establishment of Maharashtra. Some of these are the mysterious death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, the lynching of Palghar sadhus and expose of Mumbai film industry in the drugs abuse case. It is the determination to take the case to the logical conclusion that is the problem. Normally when an issue is raised in media those who are suspects will get into hiding. They will resurface when the issue would be put under the carpet. Journalists don’t have either the patience or the resource or the backing to keep the issue alive. Also, new issues come up and old issues only become reference points.
Arnab has ensured that the issues don’t get buried. The video of the lynching of Palghar sadhus that Republic TV beamed would shame any police for being a witness to such a gory incident. Instead of acting against the culprits, they decided to fix Arnab. The cabal has been silent. On the Sushant case, while the final word is yet to be out whether it was a suicide, murder or abetment to suicide, it is obvious that police investigation was hogwash. There were so many inconsistencies and loopholes which other Television news channels also showed.
On Bollywood drugs abuse issue, Arnab challenged the gods of Indian Cinema. The entire film industry came under a cloud. The nexus of crime, film and politics came in full public view. He even questioned some of his good friends in the film industry and gave voice to a middle-class icon such as Kangana Ranaut who became a victim of the oligarchic cartel of Bollywood.
Now let us look at the witch-hunt. The TRP case looks a sham. But the TRP scam, if at all, should be investigated at the national level to know who is doing what. The rule of how to issue summon was violated. The police called all journalists associated with the organization making it abundantly clear that they had the power to harass.
When nothing was coming out in the TRP case and fingers were being pointed out at some other organisations, the police reopened the old case of abetment to suicide. The case was closed and if new circumstances warranted reopening that could be done only after permission of the court. And under no law, if a violation of the law of contract becomes the reason for suicide, it can be construed as abetment to suicide.
It became obvious to everyone that the Mumbai police was doing the job of a hit-man. They unleashed brutality on a senior journalist even when they had no case. Apparently, they were trying to please their political masters. The police in India is feared and not respected for this obvious reason that they can fabricate evidence, create witnesses and make a case if they want to fix you. This explains why people came out in support of Arnab. They saw the possibility of their own plight in his arrest. The fear was real.
A Senior Advocate wrote a letter to the Supreme Court questioning why Arnab’s case was being taken on an expeditious manner. This is a laughable matter. One only needs to know how the left Cabal argued when FIR was filed against journalist Vinod Dua in Sedition case. In August 2018, the Supreme Court expeditiously heard the petition filed by Romilla Thapar and others for the immediate release of five rights activists by Maharashtra police in the Bhima-Koregaon case. The petition was filed the same day i.e., on 29 August 2018. The court showing leniency allowed their House Arrest till disposal of the petition.
There are many such cases where the Apex court heard the matter expeditiously. Why a different standard adopted by these people in case of Arnab. All critics in this case are misguided by the Leftist echo system where they can’t distinguish between a case of sedition and pure vendetta. Their silence will go down in history as the most criminal silence.
The bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Indira Banerjee that heard the bail petition of Arnab Goswami created history in the charter of individual freedom and liberty. Justice Chandrachud said: “Forget Arnab Goswami for a moment, we are a constitutional court… If we as a constitutional court do not lay down law and protect liberty, then who will?”
He further remarked: “If we don’t interfere in this case today, we will walk on path of destruction. If left to me I won’t watch the channel and you may differ in ideology but Constitutional courts will have to protect such freedoms…” He recounted: “A woman was hauled up for a tweet in West Bengal as she criticised the lockdown enforcement. She was issued summons under 41A. Is this fair? This cannot happen.”
On the issue of abetment to suicide the observation was very strong. He said:
“We are assuming the allegations of FIR as gospel truth but even then, is a case of Section 306 made out? In a matter like this when some dues was not paid, would a suicide mean abetment? Would it not be a travesty of justice if someone is denied bail for this?” He further added “For Section 306, abetment there needs to be actual incitement. Does one owes money to another and they commit suicide — would it be abetment?”
The highest court upheld individual liberty cannot be curtailed on the ground of technicalities. “This is not a case of terrorism.”
After all, these observations and the order to annul the judgment of the High Court should be seen as the new guidelines of individual liberty. Abetment to suicide has to have some circumstantial evidence. Violation of the law of contract cannot be construed as abetment to suicide and it would be construed as a mockery of justice. Unless a guideline is established, it would give a lot of powers to police to interfere and harass people without getting into the merits.
[The writer sent the piece above to some prominent media houses, which refused to publish the article]
Sudesh Verma is the national head of BJP’s media relations. He represents the said political party on various forums. A former journalist who wrote the most credible book on the Indian prime minister titled Narendra Modi: The GameChanger