Arnab Goswami’s Bail is Being Heard With Swiftness. Shouldn’t Every Indian Have the Same Access?

Social Commentary

Arnab Goswami’s Bail is Being Heard With Swiftness. Shouldn’t Every Indian Have the Same Access?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

The law isn’t equal for everyone in India. While the ordinary person might have to wait months or even years to see their case get listed, celebrities and powerful politicians have special access. One of those people is Republic TV editor Arnab Goswami.

In a scathing letter, senior advocate and president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Dushyant Dave has lodged “strong protest” with the Secretary General pointing out that Goswami’s petitions before the top court are listed urgently while other similarly placed litigants are kept waiting. A travesty of the justice system?

Dave questioned whether there was a special direction from Chief Justice of India SA Bobde himself to list petitions by the journalist urgently. “While thousands of citizens remain in jails, languishing for long periods while their matters before the Supreme Court are not getting listed for weeks and months, it is, to say the least, deeply disturbing, how and why every time Mr Goswami approaches the Supreme Court, his matter gets listed instantly. Is there any special Order or Direction from the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India and the Master of the Roster in this regard?” Dave asked.

Arnab Goswami had approached the Supreme Court on November 10 against a November 9 order of the High Court denying him bail. The petition was listed for hearing on November 11 before a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee. If the justice system was so swiftly accessible even for the common man, India would have been a different country today.

Dave pointed out that thousands of citizens languish in jail for long periods of time while their matters filed before the Supreme Court do not get listed for weeks and months. “Even someone like P Chidambaram, a respected Senior Advocate, could not get a similar speedy listing and had to spend long months in jail till finally the Hon’ble Supreme Court declared that he deserved to be bailed out,” Dave wrote.

Many on social media have pointed out the double standards by the courts. Journalist Kunal Purohit pointed out that while Arnab gets urgent hearings, Parkinson’s-affected activist Stan Swamy’s request for a sipper to drink water because his hands are unsteady, will be heard after 20 days. A different set of rules for influential people, and different ones for ordinary folks?

Justice Chandrachud during the hearing of the bail plea said that the “Supreme Court has to be there for every person”. As pointed out by author and journalist Swati Chaturvedi, it seems the SC was there for Arnab but not for 83-year-old Swamy, because he doesn’t have a big ticket lawyer like Harish Salve representing him.

Bails have been denied to many, where is the consistency?

Wife of Malayalam journalist Siddique Kappan, who was arrested and charged under the UAPA while on his way to Hathras to cover the brutal violence on a Dalit woman, has strongly condemned the double standards in politicians’ protests against the arrest of Arnab Goswami.

The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) had filed an application in the Supreme Court, seeking its directions to urgently hear Kappan’s bail petition and asking that he be allowed regular video calls with his family members and lawyers. “From what I was told, he managed to speak to his [90-year-old] mother for five minutes. When I checked on Truecaller (a call tracing application), I could see he had called from a landline in Mathura jail,” she told Telegraph.

Public interest lawyer Prashant Bhusan described it as a gross abuse of administrative power. “When life & death matters like CAA, 370, Habeas Corpus, Electoral bonds etc are not listed for months, Arnab Goswami’s petitions are listed in hours. Is he a Super Citizen?” he asked.

A justice system must be equal for all its citizens, not skewed towards those with money and political power. Only then, can the courts claim to “be there for every person”.