Arnab Goswami arrest by the police in Raigad district on Wednesday, for allegedly supporting the suicide of 53-year-old interior designer Anvay Naik and his mother Kumud Naik in 2018, put the spotlight on the sheer number of cases filed by the Maharashtra government against Republic TV and its editor-in-chief.
The case had been closed by the BJP-Shiv Sena government led Devendra Fadnavis, but its successor, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government comprising the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party, and the Congress, reopened it. Five other cases have been reported against Goswami and Republic TV since the MVA government came to power last year.
This has led the opposition BJP to allege “police excesses,” which has lashed out at the MVA for creating an “emergency situation,” while the ruling parties maintain that the police are simply acting on evidence.
Alibaug suicide case
Anvay Naik, managing director of Concorde Designs Private Limited, and his mother Kumud were found dead in their home in Kavir village of Alibaug in May 2018.
A suicide letter recovered by the police identified the owners of three companies – Arnab Goswami of Republic TV, IcastX/Skimedia’s Feroz Shaikh, and Neetish Sarda of smart works saying they owed Rs 83 lakh, Rs 4 crore, and Rs 55 lakh respectively to Naik’s firm. Anvay Naik allegedly wrote in the note that he and his mother decided to take the extreme step because the owners of the three companies did not clear the payments.
The case was closed in April 2019, citing a lack of evidence, and reopened last month under the MVA government. Goswami was then arrested on Wednesday by the Raigad police from his residence in Worli, Mumbai.
Assaulting a woman constable
Arnab Goswami assaulted a woman constable and resisted arrest in the process of his arrest for abetting suicide. Therefore, the Mumbai Police has booked Goswami under Indian Penal Code sections related to assault or use of criminal force to deter a public servant from discharging duty, intentional insult to provoke breach of peace and criminal intimidation.
The FIR also mentions his wife, Samyabrata Goswami, their son, and two others. In turn, Arnab Goswami has alleged that he was assaulted by police.
Inciting disaffection among policemen
“The Mumbai Police booked Republic TV’s senior editors and newsroom staff last month to air news about a” revolt “within the force against its commissioner Param Bir Singh.
The FIR includes sections of the Police (Incitement to Disaffection) Act, 1922, and claims the editors and staff “attempted to incite disaffection” among members of the police force and defamed the Mumbai Police.
The TRP scam
On 8 October, Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh held a press conference to claim that his department had found a “racket” of private channels allegedly manipulating their TV Rating Points (TRPs) to get more revenue.
Singh alleged that the TRP scam involved the owners of Republic TV, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema.
Although the FIR registered in the case does not name Arnab Goswami or Republic TV, the police maintain that investigations and statements by some of the accused have pointed the involvement of Republic TV in bribing households to watch TRPs on the channel.
To date, 11 accused in the case have been arrested by the police and the police have summoned the senior leadership of ARG Outlier Media Asianet News Private Limited, which owns and manages Republic TV.
Palghar Mob Lynching Incident
The coverage of the Palghar mob lynching incident by Republic TV attracted a number of FIRs across the country. The show evoked strong reactions on YouTube.
On 16 April, three Mumbai residents, two Hindu sadhus and their driver, who were on their way to Silvassa in the Dadra & Nagar Haveli union territory, were lynched by local residents in the Gadchinchale village of Palghar district of Maharashtra, on suspicion that they were robbers.
The Mumbai Police sent a show cause notice to Arnab Goswami , saying his comments could create communal disharmony and hatred between Hindus and Muslims, and asking why a bond of good behaviour should not be taken from him.
Goswami also accused Congress of interim president Sonia Gandhi of getting the sadhus killed and sending reports to Italy about how she has managed to bump off Hindus in states where “she governs”.
This attracted at least 15 FIRs across the country, filed by many Congress workers. Two of those 15 FIRs were filed in Maharashtra.
Subsequently, on 8 May, activist Nilesh Navlakha filed a complaint against Goswami under sections of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, for stirring up communal hatred and divide on his news channel.
Migrant workers gathering in Bandra
A crowd of migrant workers gathered outside Mumbai’s Bandra railway station on 14 April, under the first national Covid-19 lockdown, to demand transportation arrangements to return to their homes.
In his show, Goswami allegedly questioned the need for a large gathering near a mosque, breaking all norms of physical distancing, and hinted that the incident was a conspiracy by the Muslim community.
Based on a complaint, the Mumbai Police filed an FIR against Goswami for trying to spread hatred against the Muslim community and booked him under various sections of the Indian Penal Code.
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