TV anchor Arnab Goswami freed on bail after alleged suicide abetment

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are detained by police officials during a protest against the arrest of Arnab Goswami, one of India's top TV news anchors, in Mumbai, India, November 4, 2020. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File Photo

MUMBAI (Reuters) - India’s Supreme Court on Wednesday granted bail to the head of a nationalist TV channel, a week after he was arrested for allegedly abetting the suicide of an interior decorator, a case the channel blamed on politicians angered by its news coverage.

The court said a lower court had been wrong to deny bail to Arnab Goswami and ordered his release on bail of 50,000 rupees ($670).

Police said the decorator had left behind a suicide note saying Goswami’s Republic TV had not paid him for design work on its Mumbai-based television studio, leaving him in deep debt.

The channel, which has a reputation for shouting down guests at its nightly debates, said the 2018 case was fabricated and that the local government, run by parties opposed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was punishing it for its news coverage.

Goswami’s arrest drew contrasting reactions and exposed divisions within Indian politics. Several members of Modi’s government condemned the detention as an attack on the press.

But others said the BJP had itself been hostile to journalists in states that it governed.

Himanta Biswa Sarma, a minister from Modi’s BJP in the northeastern state of Assam, said he was “extremely pleased” with the court’s decision.

“Justice prevails!,” he said on Twitter. “With this, I sincerely hope the wicked witch hunt against @republic Editor in Chief, and the channel, comes to an end.”

Reporting by Suchitra Mohanty; Writing by Abhirup Roy; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Nick Macfie