Goswami was taken to Alibaug in a police van and produced in the local court there. The magistrate’s order remanding in judicial custody for 14 days, till November 18, came around 11.30pm. His bail plea will be heard on Thursday.
Video clips of Goswami’s arrest that later went viral on social media revealed arguments, allegations, tearing of documents, and pleas. While Goswami went live on his channel alleging he and his son had been assaulted by cops, the police, countering his allegation, later registered an FIR against him for pushing a woman police officer while on duty.
During the first half of the court hearing, after Goswami complained of assault, the court sought a medical report from the local civil hospital. Based on the doctors’ report, the magistrate rejected Goswami’s claims of injuries sustained in the alleged assault.
The case against Goswami, police said, was based on a suicide note which stated that Anvay Naik, a 53-year-old interior designer, and his mother had decided to end their lives as payments totalling Rs 5.4 crore due to them were not being cleared by owners of three companies—ARG Outlier (that operates Republic TV), Feroz Shaikh of IcastX/Skimedia and Neetish Sarda of Smartworks. Shaikh and Sarda too were held on Wednesday from Kandivli and Jogeshwari.
Due to failure to receive money, the deceased couldn’t pay his vendors, was under mental stress and was compelled to commit suicide, the remand application submitted in court said.
Police had closed the case last year, but on the directions of state home minister Anil Deshmukh, they moved the court earlier this year and got it reopened. Police said Naik’s daughter Adnya had met the minister in May this year.
The arrest drew charges of political vendetta from the channel and from the BJP, both of whom said Goswami was being targeted by the MVA government for having been consistently critical of it. Several Union ministers and party leaders compared the arrest with the Emergency-era crackdown on press freedoms and said the abetment to suicide case had been raked up in order to harass Goswami, whose channel is considered right-wing and was initially funded by an MP who is now with the BJP.
Later on Wednesday, Goswami filed a ‘habeas corpus’ petition in the Bombay high court challenging what he termed as his “illegal arrest” and said a closed case had been reopened only to falsely implicate him.
Anvay Naik and his mother Kumud were found dead in their Alibag farmhouse on May 5, 2018. Naik was found hanging from the ceiling on the first floor and his mother’s body was found on the ground floor on the bed. A post-mortem report showed Kumud had been strangled to death.
Naik’s wife Akshata had lodged a complaint that Goswami of ARG Outlier had not paid Rs 83 lakh for the Bombay Dyeing Studio Project. Shaikh and Sarda owed them Rs 4.55 crore for work they had carried out respectively.
Naik was MD of Concord Designs Private Limited, a Mumbai-based architectural and interior designing firm, and his mother was on the firm’s board of directors.
Based on the suicide note left behind by Naik, police registered an FIR under Section 306 of IPC for abetment to suicide case against Goswami, Shaikh and Sarda.
In the remand application, police said they want to probe the work order and recover receipts of payments, debit notes between ARG Outlier and the deceased. Police said they have sent the laptop of the deceased for forensic examination to retrieve exchange of emails.
The accused alleged there was delay in the work and also that it was not proper, the application said. Police said they want to examine bank accounts to know the flow of money and want to record statements of vendors who carried out the work.
The remand application states that the complainant and her daughter had received threats in Dadar as well as in Murbad in May 2020 so that they didn’t pursue the complaint. They have lodged a complaint with the ACP, Worli division. Police said they have sent the suicide note to handwriting experts and for forensic examination.
In the afternoon, former BJP MP Kirit Somaiya attempted to meet Goswami in Alibaug but was dragged away as he came in the way of the police van.
Advocate Vilas Naik, representing Naik’s kin, said, “During the court hearing, Goswami’s wife was admonished by the magistrate for allegedly recording court proceedings.”
The Alibaug police in October 2019 filed a closure report classifying it under ‘A’ summary. ‘A’ summary is where the magistrate classifies the case as true but undetected.
On October 15 this year, the Alibaug police moved the chief metropolitan magistrate seeking permission to reopen the case under CrPC 173 (8); after receiving the court’s nod, the case was reopened. Adnya Naik said they sent a representation to Raigad police on October 12, 2020 and were called to record their statements. “The case was reopened following court orders,” said Anil Deshmukh, home minister.
During the course of investigation, Raigad police also found that Naik, who had incurred heavy debts, had filed an NC (non-cognizable) case against a contractor in Mumbai after the latter had threatened him to repay the money he had taken.
Meanwhile, it is also learned that the Raigad superintendent of police has been asked to conduct an enquiry against the earlier investigating officer for the alleged improper probe.
When contacted, the then investigating officer Suresh Warade, who was senior inspector at Alibaug police station in 2018, said, “I am unaware of any inquiry. Presently, I am in Nagpur to attend a sessions court case. The ‘A’ summary report for closure of the abetment to suicide case was submitted in Alibaug court after one year of registering an FIR, by following the proper legal course.”