Republic TV's Arnab Goswami walked out of jail this evening after he was granted interim bail by the Supreme Court in a 2018 abetment to suicide case. He and two others were arrested last week in connection with the suicide of architect Anvay Naik and his mother.
A two-judge bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee pulled up the Maharashtra government over the TV anchor's arrest as they heard the petition through video conferencing.
"If we as a constitutional court do not lay down law and protect liberty, then who will," the Supreme Court said during the hearing.
"The victim is entitled to recourse as in proper and fair probe," the judges ruled.
The Supreme Court said Arnab Goswami must cooperate with the probe. The court also said the release of the three must not be delayed by two days and asked them to furnish bonds of Rs 50,000.
The hearing comes two days after the Bombay High Court turned down Mr Goswami's plea against his arrest and the reopening of the case. The High Court said the journalist could take his bail request go to the lower court, which had to decide within four days.
Today, the Supreme Court had some tough words for the Maharashtra government over the TV anchor's arrest last Wednesday.
According to the Mumbai police, Anvay Naik, who designed the sets of Republic TV, had left a suicide note blaming Mr Goswami and two others for dues he alleged had not been paid to him.
The case was closed two years ago, with the police citing lack of evidence. It was reopened recently on the request of Mr Naik's family, the police said.
In court, the police and the Maharashtra government said it was the duty of the state to protect the victim (Naiks).
The Supreme Court questioned whether not paying up money amounted to abetting suicide and asked: "If tomorrow, a person commits suicide in Maharashtra and blames the government, then will the Chief Minister be arrested?"
Justice Chandrachud said governments should "ignore taunts on TV" as our democracy is "extraordinarily resilient", referring to Mr Goswami's criticism of the Maharashtra government.
"But the answer is simple. If you don't like a channel then don't watch it... if left to me, I do not watch the channel and you may differ in ideology, but if constitutional courts do not interfere today, we are traveling the path of destruction undeniably," said the judge.
"If state governments target individuals, they must realise there is an apex court to protect liberty of citizens... We must send a message today to the high courts as well. Please exercise your jurisdiction to uphold personal liberty," the court said.
The top court observed that trial courts and High Courts do not grant bail in matters of personal liberty. "The cases then flood to the Supreme Court which is already burdened with workload," it said.
Mr Goswami's lawyer Harish Salve had argued in the hearing: "Is Arnab Goswami a terrorist? Are there any murder charges on him? Why can't he be given bail?"