This article is written by Chandrasmita Priyadarshini, studying BA LLB from Kiit School Of Law, Bhubaneshwar. This exhaustive article covers the details of the TRP Scam and the role of the media in a democratic country.
Table of Contents
The current impact of the media is really commendable. Excessive coverage or hype of sensitive news has led to communal riots at times. With this news usually, the illiterates are more easily provoked than the literates. Democracy means a government where all the citizens have an equal right to express, prove their opinions. Media plays a very important role in shaping each and every individual. This news creates a division in the society creating a feeling of indifference, unrest, and insensitivity. So the present case is about the appellant who is also the Editor in chief of the Republic TV who was arrested along with the other appellants due to an FIR filed against them under Sections 306 read with 34 of the Indian Penal Code. The said FIR was filed in December 2016, which was filed by the spouse of the deceased, Anvay Naik owner of Concorde Design Private Limited who had committed suicide. This company was awarded a contract for civil and interior work to be done by the ARG Outlier Media Private Limited. The main claims of the FIR were the abetment of suicide by the appellants of the deceased due to non-payment of his legitimate dues. The appellants claimed the arrest to be malice in fact. The appellant claimed that he is being targeted for being honest in his news broadcasts criticizing the Maharashtra Government and the Maharashtra police. Later it was found by the Mumbai police that the appellant was trying to play the victim in the present case and increase the television rating points (TRP) of Republic TV for which the case was transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Role of media in a democracy
Democracy is when people know what to choose for themselves as representatives and are free to do so which definitely requires active participation. In a democratic country, the media plays a very vital role in shaping it by spreading awareness, etc. Media builds peace and social consensus which builds upon the economy. It makes us informed about the happenings all over the world. Media becomes to be the backbone of democracy. On the other hand, the media can create violence, chaos, and can contribute to democracy destruction instead of democracy welfare. The media also serves as a conduit between governors/representatives and the governed and as an arena for public debate that leads to more intelligent policy- and decision-making. The media should provide a voice to those marginalized because of poverty, gender, or ethnic or religious affiliation. The media acts as a forum for public debate. Democracy cannot function in the absence of the media as the media acts as a watchdog on the government.
Facts of the case
The FIR was registered on 5 May, 2018 by Akshyata Anvay Naik (spouse of the deceased) who was the informant for the present case stating her spouse (Anvay naik) to have committed suicide. As on that day Akshyata when she and her daughter were at Mumbai at their residence she got to know that her mother-in-law Kumud Naik had died lying on the bed along with her husband, who had committed suicide by hanging at their Alibaug residence, where they both had gone for a weekend trip. “She found this out when she went to her house at Alibaug. The deceased had left a suicide note blaming Arnab Goswami (Editor in Chief) of Republic TV, Feroz Shaikh and Nitesh Sarda,” all appellants connected for abetment of suicide. The reason behind such an act was during December 2016, a contract was signed between the company ARG Outlier Media Private Limited with another company Concorde Design Private Limited which was owned by Anvay Naik. This was a civil contract for interior designing to be done by the deceased’s company. Later after completion of the said contract, the ARG Outlier Media Private Limited did not pay an amount of Rs. 83 lacs for the Bombay dyeing studio project. Along with this, there was an outstanding amount of Rs. 4 crores from Feroz Shaikh and Rs. 55 lacs from Nitesh Sarda all the above-mentioned appellants due to which the spouse of the informant had not received the payment for the work being carried out by him which left him no other way in mental pressure he committed suicide on 5 May 2018. The suicide note stated to hold the above appellants responsible for his suicide. Thus the basis of the FIR was that the appellants abeted the death of the deceased and his mother due to non-payment of valid dues. Later the appellant was arrested on 4 November 2020 in regards to the FIR which was registered at the Alibaug Police station in accordance with Section 306 and Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code. Later on 16 April, 2020 in a broadcast on the Republic TV the host Arnab(here appellant) expressed his resentment regarding the unsatisfactory investigation carried by the police in where in a mob three individuals along with two sadhus were killed in the presence of police and forest guard personnel at a village in Maharashtra. This amounted to multiple FIRs against the appellant. This resulted in the reopening of the Anvay Naik suicide case.
The function of investigation agencies during reinvestigation
On 26 May 2020, the Home department of the state of Maharashtra started the reinvestigation of the above-mentioned FIR at Alibaug Police station and ordered the transfer of the case to the Crime investigation department. This investigation was commenced for further investigation under Section 173(8) of the Code of Criminal Procedure Code in accordance with Section 306 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code. On 4 November 2020, the appellant was arrested with regards to the FIR filed by the spouse of the deceased for which the appellant filed a Writ Petition filed under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution at the Bombay High court. In relation to this, a remand application was filed before the Chief judicial magistrate after the arrest. It was ordered for judicial custody. The Bombay High Court granted liberty to the appellant and asked to file for regular bail under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure with a direction to be heard within four days of the date of filing. As a result of this, the appellant filed for bail in the sessions court of Raigad for bail. On 10 December the High court held that to quash the similar FIRs and rejected the application for interim bail.
Error by the High Court
The Supreme Court held that the High Court has erred in rejecting the applications for the grant of interim bail. Yet, this is a very debatable part. Under Article 32 the Supreme Court upholds the fundamental rights of the petitioner that is towards free speech and expression and equality. The High court failed to discharge its adjudicatory functions. As in the initial stages of the case when a petition to quash the FIR as to an arguable case was made out. Also, the interim bail was declined prima facie on the basis of FIR. In Spite of having the power to protect any individual by an interim order under Section 439 by invoking Article 226 in the petition, the High Court has failed to do so. In order to ensure these laws are not misused or made a weapon out of it the Courts need to ensure proper enforcement of Criminal laws. No court should prevent itself from exercising a power when an individual is arbitrarily deprived of its personal liberty in an excess of state power. Especially all High Courts must serve as a defence for deprivation of liberty. Liberty is a fundamental right guaranteed by our Constitution, which undoubtedly is subject to regulation by reasonable restriction. Section 482, recognizes the inherent power of the High court “in order to prevent any means of abuse of the process by any court to secure the ends of justice”
The debate over the legitimacy of the investigation
The first investigation conducted by the officials was not legitimate, hence it was so claimed that every citizen’s basic entitlement is to achieve fair justice, so fair means of investigation is mandatory. Also when various FIRs were filed against the appellant in regards to his opinion then only it was ordered for reinvestigation on 26 May 2020. This arbitrariness by the officials is not acceptable, as guaranteed in our Constitution this is the main essence of our Constitution which entitles every citizen with fundamental rights of right to equality under Article 14 and personal liberty under Article 21. If the court fails to enforce fundamental rights then there is a clear violation that is witnessed by the appellants. The same has been held more than a few decades ago, in a celebrated judgment in the State of Rajasthan, Jaipur v. Balchand (1977) 4 SCC 308, where Justice Krishna Iyer pithily reminded us “the basic Rule of our criminal justice system is ‘bail, not jail’.” The laws to be applicable in this case are Section 482 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Section 306, Section 107 and Section 34 of Indian Penal Code, Section 482 and 439 of Criminal Procedure Code.
After hearing both the parties the Supreme Court held that to release all the above three appellants on bail in spite of this case which is pending, its disposal of proceedings before the High court as issued on 11 November, 2020. It was also held that the high court had erred in the rejection of the applications for the grant of interim bail. Accordingly, it was so ordered and directed that the three appellants as in Arnab Manoranjan Goswami, Feroz Mohammad Shaikh and Nitesh Sarda shall be released on interim bail, but are obligated for the execution of a personal bond of Rs 50,000 to be deposited before the Jail Superintendent. These appellants are however directed to cooperate in further investigations, not interfering with the ongoing investigations or the witnesses.
LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join: