Criminal law does not become a weapon for the selective harassment of citizen
In a landmark Judgment on Friday, Supreme Court in Republic TV Editor Arnab Goswami’s bail case made scathing remarks that in cases involving the liberty of citizens who are targeted by State, the courts must ensure that state does not use “criminal law as a tool to harass or jeopardize liberty (of citizens).” The 55 page Judgment passed by Justices D Y Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee in many areas reiterated that the Bombay High Court erred in rejecting Arnab’s petition and raised concern about the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress led Maharashtra Government’s high handedness in the arrest of Arnab Goswami in a two-year-old case of abetment to suicide.
Expressing displeasure on the arrest of Arnab, the Supreme Court observed in many areas that the basic liberty was deprived to the noted Television Anchor for his comments against the government through his TV programmes. “As a consequence of its failure to perform its function under Section 482, the High Court has disabled itself from exercising its jurisdiction under Article 226 to consider the appellant‘s application for bail. In considering such an application under Article 226, the High Court must be
circumspect in exercising its powers on the basis of the facts of each case. However, the High Court should not foreclose itself from the exercise of the power when a citizen has been arbitrarily deprived of their personal liberty in an excess of state power,” said the apex court pointing out the error in the Bombay High Court Judgment.
Reiterating the liberty of a person, the apex court said: “courts must be alive to the need to safeguard the public interest in ensuring that the due enforcement of criminal law is not obstructed.
“The doors of this Court cannot be closed to a citizen who is able to establish prima facie that the instrumentality of the state is being weaponized for using the force of criminal law. Our courts must ensure that they continue to remain the first line of defense against the deprivation of the liberty of citizens. Deprivation of liberty even for a single day is one day too many. We must always be mindful of the deeper systemic implications of our decisions,” said the Judgment.
Reiterating the liberty of a person, the apex court said: “courts must be alive to the need to safeguard the public interest in ensuring that the due enforcement of criminal law is not obstructed. The fair investigation of crime is an aid to it. Equally, it is the duty of courts across the spectrum – the district judiciary, the High Courts, and the Supreme Court – to ensure that the criminal law does not become a weapon for the selective harassment of citizens.
“Courts should be alive to both ends of the spectrum – they need to ensure the proper enforcement of criminal law on the one hand and the need, on the other, of ensuring that the law does not become a ruse for targeted harassment. Liberty across human eras is as tenuous as tenuous can be. Liberty survives by the vigilance of her citizens, on the cacophony of the media, and in the dusty corridors of courts alive to the rule of (and not by) law. Yet, much too often, liberty is a casualty when one of these components is found wanting.”
The Judgment also made a scathing observation on the FIR filed by Maharashtra police in the abetment of suicide. The apex court questioned the prima facie case against Arnab.
The full 55-page judgment and analysis on it is published by portal Live Law.
 No prima facie case against Arnab Goswami in abetment to suicide case, says Supreme Court – Nov 27, 2020, Hindustan Times
 Deprivation For A Single Day Is A Day To Many, Courts Must Ensure That Criminal Law Does Not Become A Weapon For Selective Harassment Of Citizens: SC In Arnab Goswami Judgment – Nov 27, 2020, Live Law
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