A court in Raigad district on Wednesday took cognizance of a charge-sheet filed against television journalist Arnab Goswami and two others in an abetment of suicide case and asked the trio to appear before it on January 7. Earlier this month, police had filed the charge-sheet before the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Sunayna Pingale at Alibag in adjoining Raigad district, where the 2018 case for alleged abetment to suicide of interior designer Anvay Naik and his mother Kumud has been registered.
The court took the cognizance of the charge-sheet, which runs into 1,914 pages, despite strong objection put forth by defence lawyers, special public prosecutor Pradeep Gharat said. All the three accused, including Goswami, have been asked to remain present before the Alibag court on January 7, he added.
The trio has been charged under IPC sections 306 (abetment to suicide) and 109 (punishment for abetment). In a related development, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday allowed Goswami to challenge the charge-sheet.
Goswami's counsel Aabad Ponda told the HC that the magistrate's court at Alibag has taken cognizance of the charge-sheet. Ponda sought time from the high court to amend the petition filed by the Republic TV Editor-in-Chief against the FIR registered by the Alibag police in the more than two- year-old case case to also challenge the charge-sheet.
A division bench of Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik accepted the request and directed the magistrates court to issue a copy of the charge-sheet to Goswami at the earliest. The HC said it would hear the matter further on January 6.
"Since the magistrate has just taken cognizance of the charge-sheet, we would like to amend the petition and bring the charge-sheet on record to challenge the same," Ponda told the HC. Ponda called filing of the charge-sheet a "hasty" move.
As many as 65 persons were named as witnesses in the document. The police have listed statements of family members and staff of Naik, call data records and information retrieved from electronic devices as evidence in the case.
Goswami and the two other accused were arrested by the Alibag police on November 4 in connection with the suicide of architect-interior designer Anvay Naik in 2018 over alleged non-payment of dues by the companies of the trio. The police have alleged, in the charge-sheet, that the accused did not pay heed to victim Anvay Naik's threat that he would end his life if his dues were not cleared by the trio.
The charge-sheet said Naik, who was under mental stress due to non-payment of dues by the accused, first strangled to death his mother Kumud, a partner in his business, and then hanged himself in his house in Alibag. Besides Goswami, the other two accused named in the charge-sheet are Firoze Sheikh and Nitish Sarda.
In May this year, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had said he has ordered a fresh probe in the case after a complaint by Adnya Naik, the daughter of Anvay Naik. After arrest, the 47-year-old TV journalist, who has denied charges in the case, had filed a petition in the HC seeking to quash the FIR and had also sought interim bail.
The HC had on November 9 refused to grant interim bail following which Goswami approached the Supreme Court. The apex court granted interim bail to Goswami on November 11. The other two accused are also out on bail.