The Supreme Court’s decision to give bail to Arnab Goswami to defend ‘personal liberty ‘ which can not be allowed to get hampered, as Justice Chandrachud remarked and further added if ‘states go against it as they should know there is a Supreme Court’ ready to ‘protect’ people’s personal liberties. Justice Chandrachud is considered to be one of the top thinking judges of our time, a very knowledgeable and the one who had disagreed many times with the major judgements. However, yesterday’s arguments which came live through two wonderful online sites livelaw and barbench showed as if the special sitting was just a plan to give Arnab bail. From day one, Arnab Goswami never followed any procedures and bypassed them. He had no faith in lower courts and was indecent during hearing there. His bail application was pending at the bigger court but he decided to approach the high court but when the high court too asked him to go to lower court for the regular bail as is the procedure, his lawyers felt it is enough is enough. They should get intervention from the Supreme Court.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave raised questions about Supreme Court registry picking up Arnab Goswami’s case so fast and listing it in the top when thousands of such cases have been pending in the court for matters rarely come in listing. Issue of political leaders and activists languishing in jail in Jammu and Kashmir after abrogation of article 370 is rarely heard on time. Habeas Corpus petition of former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah was dismissed after the government said that he has been ‘released’ even when he was not. Similar things happened to Prof Saifuddin Sauz and the court accepted the ‘government’ version as gospel truth. For the last several years, we have so many activists suffering enormously in such difficult circumstances in various jails but there is no outrage related to personal liberty. Varavara Rao, Stan Swamy are over 80 years and suffer from various age related ailments. They can’t stand and need caretakers but the outrage is completely ‘gayab’. Look at Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha and others who have been in jail for their writings. Both of them too are above sixty or near seventy.
It is good that Justice Chandrachud said that he wants to give an order which can provide precedent. He admonished high courts for not being active on this issue and were very lax in giving bails. I think High Courts in the last five six years have delivered better in terms of people’s rights and not our apex courts. We can say that if we look at the cases, we will find, various High Courts came out as strong supporters of people’s liberties and rights. What happened to Dr Kafil Khan who was arrested under NSA for no fault of him and when released by the high court, Uttar Pradesh government shamelessly slapped other cases on him and rearrested him. It was only after the high court of Allahabad intervened that he got bail.
We are looking forward to the detailed order of the Supreme Court. We hope it gives new guidelines. I said numerous times, the best way for the court to undo the systematic wrong particularly those who can’t afford a Harish Salve or a Kapil Sibal, is to appoint a judicial commission under some retired judges of Supreme Court and give them a clear guideline of looking up to those cases which are basically related to political prisoners, human rights defenders and activists working for people’s rights. They have been punished for being the voice of the people.
Looking at the cases exclusively and then speaking of ‘personal liberty’ is hypocrisy. It is important that the whole issue is dealt in a decisive way by the Supreme court giving categorical guidelines to state not to arrest people on a mere tweet or a facebook post.
Yesterday, during the argument, Justice Chandrachud said that if you don’t like someone, don’t watch him. I don’t watch his channel. While these are just observations, but I hope things are not simple. Arnab Goswami’s poisonous campaign is well known and I am sure Harish Salve should also know it. Can any person dedicated to human rights stand with Arnab Goswami who will be spreading venom from his studio again. Look at the way he came out from the Jail like a mafia don with the chamchas. The police escort given to him to spread poison. Such a security may not even be with the judges of the Supreme Court. Why is our state spending public money on those spreading venom and poison ?
But that brings us to the real point. The fact is Arnab Goswami is the one of the ‘most powerful’ persons in this government probably after the ‘first two’. The BJP was perhaps feeling helpless without their main ‘propaganda’ tool out of service for some time during the Bihar polls. But he is back and rest assured, his services for Bengal polls will be important.
Good that the Court has come for the rescue of ‘freedom’ of Arnab Goswami. One wonders whether Goswami will learn anything with this episode or will he again start his ‘freedom’ to humiliate, harass and intimidate the political opponents of the ’empire’ as he has the backing and Ashirwaad of the top institutions as well as the leadership of the country.
-Vidya Bhushan Rawat
November 12th, 2020