INDIA: Morning knock at Anchor’s door exposes the rot in justice system

By Avinash Pandey

A morning knock at the door of one of the most popular and powerful anchors of India. A 40-member strong police team armed to teeth including AK 47 rifles. An Encounter Specialist present with the team. For the uninitiated, encounter specialists are the cops known for extrajudicial executions of criminals, mostly in staged encounters with lame stories- the alleged criminal tried to flee from custody, was killed in the gunfight that ensued. A resolute resistance by the anchor asserting his power- I am the Chief Editor of Republic India network.

The police, finally, dragging him to the police van and taking him away. Whole of the Union Cabinet out in streets to condemn the arrest of Arnab Goswami- the anchor in question.

The drama that unfolded on the morning of November 4, 2020 exposed the rot in India’s justice system perhaps like nothing else could. Or, the fact that the Maharashtra Police arrested Mr. Goswami in an abetment to suicide case it had closed two years ago in October 2019, could. Yeah, they arrested him in a case they only closed earlier. Supporters of the anchor called it political vendetta, which it is by all means.

It is just that it is not only political vendetta but way of life for millions of Indians. They have lived with midnight knocks on their doors merely for dissenting with whoever is in power for decades. They have been disappeared by the governments for trying to expose scams. They have been jailed for opposing governments under draconian laws denying bail for 6 months outright, with no access to magistrates meanwhile.

They have affected the powerful too. The incumbent government at the centre is notorious for opening and closing criminal cases at will. Who can forget that many accused of corruption and scams by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself are facing no investigation after they joined his Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), a right wing Hindutva majoritarian party in power now. Mukul Roy, Narayan Rane and Naresh Agarwal, three powerful opposition leaders with ministries in the past readily come to mind.

So are the raids. The Supreme Court of India had once famously called the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the federal investigative agency that reports to the Prime Minister’s Office as a caged parrot. The only thing that has changed in last six years in India is the frequency of the abuse having broken all earlier records. Finding the CBI, Income Tax Department and Enforcement Directorate (ED) at the houses of opposition leaders on the day of their daughter’s wedding is the new normal. So is ED coming calling on the brother of an opposition Chief Minister in the middle of an attempt to topple his government. Then, the cases disappear until the next hour of the need.

It is just that midnight knocks turning into a morning one, that too on the door of an anchor supported by the party currently ruling India, called out the farce like nothing else could.

The same anchor- Arnab Goswami- now in jail for almost a week ran a Kangaroo Court of his own night after night. In the name of patriotism and country first- he would declare anyone and everyone dissenting with the Bhartiya Janata Party, a Hindutva majoritarian party currently in power in India and most of its states, anti-national. He would invent choicest of slurs against students, in fact a whole university, calling them Tukde Tukde Gang (Break India into pieces Gang). He would call professors and rights activists Urban Naxals (front for armed Maoists fighting the Indian state in several states). He would declare them guilty and call for their arrest without any judicial process.

He would mostly succeed. Therein lies another irony. He is currently imprisoned in the same jail which has two of his victims as inmates, a revolutionary poet named Varvara Rao and 83 year old Jesuit Priest suffering with the Parkinson’s disease- Father Stan Swamy. They are both mere under trials, just like him. They are both in jail not because of any crime they have committed but because of finding themselves on the wrong side of the government, just like Goswami. In fact, Goswami ran broadcasts after broadcasts calling them a threat to India and demanded their arrest.

To be honest, Goswami should have been prosecuted much before for a range of crimes- from “Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony”, criminal defamation of people, conspiring against innocents and so on- all crimes recognised under the Indian Penal Code. He was not because the system saved him. He would not have been even now has he not miscalculated and deluded himself to such grandiose as being capable of taking on the government of one of the most prosperous states in India.

It was the same government, after all, which had closed an abetment of suicide case against him despite the deceased having accused him of abetment in the suicide note. The facts of the case were never under any kind of doubt. Goswami had confessed that he owed money to the diseased and failed to pay back. The closure report too admitted the fact. The only thing different then was that the BJP was ruling Maharashtra in an alliance with the Shiv Sena, the party Goswami hounded miscalculating his power and which is now returning the favour. Armed with the Union Government’s tacit support, Goswami thought, like many others, that no one can touch him. He dared Uddhav Thackeray, elected chief minister of the state with almost profanity. He used the language even a roadside goon would not- “Come Here- I will show you”.

The state responded to the invitation- with a 40-member strong police party including encounter specialists. They were armed not only with weapons though, they had requisite paperwork too. Paperwork that invoked different summary reports in cases of alleged crimes which get closed with a Final Report- like A Summary which is invoked when a criminal charge is established but accused is not found, B summary which says no charge established and so on.

Paperwork so strong that the magistrate whom the Police went to for his police remand called the arrest prima facie illegal and yet had to grant them 14 days judicial remand. It has been six days since and Goswami is still behind bars. He has also alleged torture by the jail officials- including getting beaten up with boots- a practice quite common in fact. He has now been shifted to a real jail from the makeshift one he was earlier held at on charges of using mobile phones. The visuals of his transfer too are striking.

He was taken in jail van with iron grills and black curtains; police does not transfer even terrorists like this in most of the cases. Further, he was not even allowed to speak to his own channel- the only media group that reported on the transfer as he has irked rest of national media too with his antics. As soon as a cop saw that, he drew the curtains though only after Goswami having successfully shouting that he felt his life was under threat. The feeling, unfortunately, too is not uncommon in a country where chief ministers proudly announce that they use extrajudicial killings as a policy.

It is just that one can take Arnab Goswami’s case as a test case for the real status of the rule of law in the country.

Arnab Goswami should rethink about his own behaviour too. When Kangaroo Courts like the one he runs start replacing the real ones, anyone can fall victim to them, even those as powerful as him. If the rule of law is compromised, everyone is at equal threat. If one calls for arresting others without due process and supports politicisation of the system, he puts himself at equal risk of abuse.

George Orwell had put it very poignantly: “Either we all live in a decent world, or nobody does.”

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About the Author: Mr. Avinash Pandey, alias Samar is Programme Coordinator, Right to
Food Programme, AHRC. He can be contacted at

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-023-2020
Countries : India,
Issues : Administration of justice, Democracy, Judicial system, Prosecution system, Right to fair trial, Rule of law,