On the 4th of November, the country watched as Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami was dragged out of his house by over 20 armed policemen for a 2018 abetment to suicide case which was closed. The arrest was led by encounter specialist Sachin Vaze, who has been reinstated into the police force for 16 years of sabbatical as he was accused in a custodial death case. In between, Sachin Vaze had also joined the Shiv Sena before he was brought back to the police force by Commissioner Parambir Singh, because he needed reinforcements to fight the Coronavirus pandemic.
As Arnab Goswami was dragged out of his home for a closed abetment to suicide case, without wearing shoes, he was shoved into a police van and taken to Alibaug police station. Thereafter, he was beaten and tortured, as claimed in his affidavit to the court. He said he was beaten with boots, made to drink a liquid that choked him, not given water to drink and had a 6-inch long gash on his hand.
After his police custody was denied, a few days later, the police stealthily transferred him to Taloja jail. The Supreme Court granted him bail after 9 days of his custody and made some scathing remarks against his illegal detention by the police and also, the high court for not granting him bail earlier.
What was interesting is that Arnab Goswami was suddenly arrested in a 2018 abetment to suicide case which was closed and re-opened only recently, unilaterally, without the consent of the court. This observation was made even by the magistrate while granting his judicial custody.
The case that the Maharashtra government has chosen as a hill to die on, is an abetment to suicide case from 2018 in which a closure report was filed by the very police that arrested Arnab Goswami for it. OpIndia has accessed the entire communication between ARG Outlier Media Asianet News Pvt Ltd (ARG), CDPL (the company of Anvay Naik, who committed suicide) and that of the wife and daughter of Naik, who are now spearheading this case, claiming that Arnab Goswami abetted the suicide of Anvay Naik and his mother, who were directors in CDPL.
The suicide of Anvay Naik and the alleged suicide of his mother Kumud Naik
On the 5th of May 2018, architect Anvay Nail and his mother, Kumud Naik were found dead in their farmhouse in Kavir village in Alibaug in Maharashtra’s Raigad district. At the time, a suicide note was found from their house where the two were found dead.
In the suicide note that was recovered, three people were named.
- Arnab Goswami who, according to Naik and his mother, owed the Company Concorde Designs Pvt Ltd (of which he and his mother were the directors) – Rs. 83 lakhs due
- Feroz Sheikh – Rs. 4 crores due
- Nitesh Sarda – Rs. 55 lakhs due
The interesting aspect of this suicide letter that was found was that it was signed only by Anvay Naik. His mother who was also found dead had not signed the suicide note or left behind an alternate suicide note for herself. The FIR in the case was filed on the very same day, mentioning the three people were named in the suicide case, including Arnab Goswami.
Immediately after that, police had visited the offices of Arnab Goswami to question him in the case and he was subsequently asked to submit his and his companies financial records. On the 8th of May, all financial details including visitor log of the Republic office, phone records and financial papers were submitted to the Alibaug police by CFO S Sundaram and chief executive officer Vikas Khanchandani.
According to a Times of India report from 6th August 2018, Anvay Naik had first killed his mother and then, proceeded to commit suicide.
It was quite clear that Kumud Naik was murdered, as there was a murder case that had also been registered at the time. However, it was only circumstantial evidence that led the police to believe that it was Anvay Naik who had himself murdered his mother before committing suicide. The only evidence cited in news reports is that there was nobody else present at the farmhouse.
By the 16th of April 2019, Alibaug police submitted an ‘A’ Summary Report to the court, saying that they had found no evidence in the case against Arnab Goswami and the others, and therefore, the case was considered closed.
What happened between 5th of May 2018, when the bodies of Anvay Naik and Kumud Naik were discovered, the 16th of April 2019, when the case was closed by the police and finally, till the case was reopened
From the letters accessed by OpIndia, it is evident that several meetings to resolve the issue of payment between ARG Pvt Ltd and the Akshata Naik and Adya Naik (the wife and daughter of Anvay Naik). Further, it was also discussed as to how, legally, ARG can make a payment to CDPL’s vendors directly, as was also demanded earlier. However, the issue remained unresolved. From a perusal of the letters though it becomes rather evident that the case is not as cut and dry as vested interests would have one believe. There are several misrepresentations that are now in the play that get discredited after a perusal of the letters.
Letter 1: 12th April 2019
On the 12th of April 2019, a letter was written by ARG to Concorde Designs Pvt Ltd, also marked to Akshata Naik (wife of Anvay Naik), Adnya Naik (daughter of Anvay Naik) and the Investigating Officer, Mr DS Patil. From the letter, it is evident that multiple meetings had already been held between the Naiks, CDPL’s sub-contractors and ARG to discuss dues for work done in terms of work orders issued by ARG to CDPL.
In the letter, ARG informed the Naiks that a substantial amount of the pending work had to be undertaken independently by contractors appointed by ARG itself. The letter says that after settling the amount for the work left incomplete, the amount that was due to CDPL according to ARG was Rs. 39,01,721. ARG says that the amount can be paid to CDPL and further, the letter mentions the bank account in which previous payments were made to CDPL.
Interestingly, the letter also mentions that CDPL’s sub-contractors have not been paid by CDPL and thus, they had approached ARG separately on a couple of occasions asking for payment of dues directly to them.
The letter, therefore, made the following requests:
- Confirm the names of CDPL’s authorised personnel
- Confirm if payments may be made by ARG directly to the sub-contractors on CDPL’s behalf as a part of settlement of CDPL’s outstanding amount.
The closure report filed in April 2019 – Accepted by the Chief Judicial Magistrate L G Pachchhe on April 16, 2019
It is pertinent to note that the A Summary Report, in this case, was filed in April 2019. The closure report accessed by OpIndia shows that officers investigating the Anvay Naik suicide case had found no links between Republic TV Editor Arnab Goswami, Nitesh Sarda and Feroz Shaikh. They found no evidence that could establish that the trio made life ‘unbearable’ for Naik or led to the abetment of suicide. As such, the Raigad police investigating the case had filed an ‘A summary’ in its closure report before the magistrate in April 2019. It is important to mention that an ‘A summary’ is filed in the absence of adequate evidence against the accused, thereby preventing the cops from submitting a charge sheet.
“The three accused who have been named work in different fields, locations and no link between the three has been established in the investigation…No evidence has been found so far in the investigation that the action on the part of the three accused named in the suicide note until now, individually or together, made it unbearable for the deceased to continue living or had no option but to commit suicide. Hence, in the absence of evidence in this case, ‘A final’ summary should be accepted,” the closure report emphasised.
It further noted, “Investigation has revealed that since the past six to seven years (prior to 2018), Concorde (Anvay Naik’s company) has been facing financial losses, due to which Anvay Naik and his mother were under mental stress. Since his mother was a partner in the company, he throttled her to death, wrote a suicide note and then hung himself.”
The closure report reiterated that Concorde Designs Private Limited had left the work incomplete of several clients, including that of the ones named by Anvay Naik in the suicide note. “The accused then carried out the work among themselves and paid the vendors, as per the documents submitted before the police,” the report clarified. The closure report, submitted by the Raigad Police was accepted by the Chief Judicial Magistrate L G Pachchhe on April 16, 2019.
In fact, Indian Express exclusively accessed the annual statutory returns filed by Concorde with the Registrar of Companies. As per the details, the company had a debt of ₹26.5 crores in the fiscal year 2016. Interestingly, the company soon became inactive and also stopped filing its annual returns since that year.
Letter 2: 11th June 2019
On the 11th of June, another letter was sent from ARG to Mrs Akshata Naik and Ms Adnya Naik. The letter was also sent to CDPL, which was the company of Anvay Naik. The letter was not only sent by speed post and courier but was also sent on WhatsApp to Mrs Akshata Naik.
In the letter, the letter was again in reference to the ‘several meetings’ that were held between Akshata Naik, Adnya Naik, the sub-contractors who wanted to be paid directly by ARG and the representatives of ARG. ARG says that they had asked for an indemnity letter so they could pay the sub-contractors directly, however, there was no response from the Naiks or from the representatives of CDPL.
It is important to note here that Akshata and Adnya Naik were meeting ARG as the ‘heirs’ of Anvay Naik and had no stakes in CDPL.
In the letter, ARG also reveals in the letter that CDPL had not paid the dues to its sub-contractors for the work done at the Republic studio and the sub-contractors were now demanding that they be paid directly by ARG. It was for this that ARG wanted an indemnity letter from CDPL waiving future claims so the money due can be used to settle the bill of the sub-contractors of CDPL who were not paid.
To this, ARG says that neither CDPL nor the ‘heirs’ (Akshata and Adnya Naik’) have responded to the request by ARG to furnish a legally acceptable indemnity.
In this letter, ARG then says that since neither CDPL nor the Naiks are responding to the request by ARG to issue a legally acceptable indemnity, they are left with no choice but to transfer the fund directly to the account of CDPL (State Bank of India), in which the rest of the payment was made. ARG, at the end of the letter, gives CDPL 10 days to furnish an indemnity from either the creditors, lenders, directors of shareholders, or the amount (less TDS) would be credited to the CDPL bank account.
It is to be remembered that the amount that ARG said it was liable to pay was Rs 39,01,721 after deducting for the work not done. Notably, ARG had already paid CDPL over Rs 5.20 crores.
The interesting question that arises here is that if Rs 5.20 crores was already paid to CDPL, why had CDPL not cleared the dues of its vendors and at this juncture, why was CDPL (Directors, shareholders, creditors etc) not issuing an indemnity. If the Naiks too wanted ARG to clear the outstanding amount of the vendors, which CDPL had failed to do despite being paid over Rs 5 crores, it would stand to reason that they would be happy to take the opportunity to furnish an indemnity and clear the dues. However, this was not done and neither the heirs nor anyone from CDPL responded to ARG.
Letter 3, dated 15th June 2019: The angry letter from Mrs Akshata Naik to ARG
On the 15th of June, Akshata Naik sent a long, angry letter to ARG Outlier Media Private Limited. The assertions made by her are following:
- Akshata Naik claims that in her contract with ARG (amounting to Rs. 6.45 crores), there was a retention rate of 5% for defect liability for a year. She claims that the period of 1 year ended in April 2018 and hence, ARG cannot withhold or deduct any amount for defects/incomplete work. She, therefore, says that the amount payable to the company is Rs 88 lacs and not Rs 39.01 lacs, as calculated by ARG.
- She then says that ARG wants to pay the Company (CDPL) and not the heirs directly (Naiks) knowing ‘fully well’ that “the account cannot be operated as both directors of the Company have committed suicide abetted by Arnab Goswami and for which FIR is registered against him at Alibaug Police Station”.
- She further accuses Arnab Goswami of deliberately asking for indemnity from CDPL, knowing fully well that there is nobody to grant such an indemnity since the directors of the company are dead.
- She accuses Arnab Goswami of ‘always having the intention to cheap and defraud CDPL’.
- She writes, “As you were made aware of the hardships suffered by me and my daughter in coming out of the grief and trauma, you denied making any payments till we came to you after we were pressurised by our contractors who had to make payment to their labourers for the work done. As this was communicated to you and after you realised that labour payment had to be made and you could not wash your hands of it under any labour laws, you may have realised that there was no running away and therefore, you have intentionally made out this letter in an abrupt attempt to wipe your hands clean out of it”.
- She also threatens, saying, “any such unilateral action by you as mentioned in your letter will be drawing flax to further prosecution of Mr Arnav Goswami in person and you in your representative capacity for offences delineating of criminal breach of trust and cheating to CDPL”.
It becomes extremely important to cut through the emotional outburst of Mrs Naik here and examine the law. Firstly, Concorde Designs was a private limited company. A limited company is a going concern and does not abruptly come to an end at the time of the death of its directors. Akshata Naik here has repeatedly asserted that CDPL cannot receive payments in the company account and also cannot issue a letter of indemnity to ARG, so payments can be made directly to the sub-contractors. However, that is not true.
Firstly, this is an unusual case where both the directors die at the same time, especially, the mother and the son. If one director had died, for example, the mother, the shareholding of the mother would go to his legal heir, the son, and then a second director would be appointed after an AGM was called.
However, since both have passed away there are two ways to deal with this legally.
First – The legal heirs, Akshata and Adnya Naik, in this case, would need to write to the company, with proof that they are indeed the legal heirs of Anvay Naik. Per that letter, the company would transfer the shares held by Anvay Naik and the mother to the two legal heirs. Once the share transfer process would be done by the company, they would have to call an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) and appoint two new directors. Once the directors are appointed, they could approach the bank to revive the bank account and accept the dues in that account.
Second – If the debts of the company were too high and Akshaya and Adnya did not want to take responsibility of that, they could simply sit tight till the creditors of the company approach the court for their dues. Under those circumstances, the legal heirs could have simply said that they have nothing to do with the company and have no stakes in it. If the company itself did not have the assets to clear dues, the court, for example, could ask the ROC to open an account, take money from the people who owed the company money, like Arnab Goswami and others, and then settle the dues of the sub-contractors.
Under no circumstances can Adnya Naik and Akshata Naik demand that the money be paid to them personally (and not the company) even as legal heirs. If they had chosen the first route, the money would have been settled a long time ago. Had they chosen the second route, they would have got rid of not only the debt of the company, but they would have to forego the assets of the company too (the money owed to it by Arnab Goswami and others).
Akshaya Naik, however, chose to not take either of the legal routes. What she did was demand money either in her personal account or for ARG to pay to the sub-contractors directly, both of which is legally untenable. Essentially, the Naiks are demanding that they bear no responsibility of the debt of the company by becoming the directors and shareholders of the company, however, want to be entitled to the assets in their personal accounts. This is a legally untenable position.
As for her claiming that Arnab Goswami abetted the suicide of Anvay Naik – in an abetment to suicide case, the police would have to show that Arnab Goswami actively assisted and drove Anvay Naik to commit suicide by the way of a conspiracy. There was no proof found of that and a closure report was filed later – which would be discussed later in this article.
Letter 4, dated 6th November 2019: ARG rebuts the claims by Akshata Naik
The last letter that was sent by ARG to Akshata Naik and Adnya Naik on the 6th of November 2019. In a 4 page letter, all the points that were raised by the Naiks were responded to, point by point, raised in Akshata Naik’s letter dated 15th June.
The letter said that ARG Outlier Media Asianet Private Limited (ARG) placed work orders fated 10/12/2016, 8/03/2017 and 26/05/2017 with CDPL. The contract was between ARG and CDPL and therefore, no third party can demand payment for those work orders and ARG cannot pay any other party other than CDPL. It further revealed that after the death of Anvay Naik and Kumud Naik, no process has been initiated to appoint new directors. Despite several requests, both Naiks have shown no interest to become shareholders and/or directors of the company. The letter says, “the present impasse can only be resolved with the appointment of directors in CDPL, which is clearly not a factor within ARG’s control”.
At this point of the letter, ARG informs the Naiks that their defamatory statements about Arnab Goswami abetting the suicide of Anvay Naik are uncalled for. Firstly, there were three people who were accused and not Goswami alone. Secondly, they inform the Naiks that the police has already filed a closure report since no offence was made out.
The letter then says that ARG says that Akshata Naik’s claim of ‘defect liability period’ is incorrect and the contract makes no mention of it. It further says that she is unaware of the correspondence between ARG and CDPL about the defected work since she was not involved in the process at all and that the allegation that they have reduced the amount from Rs 88 lac to Rs 39 lac ‘unilaterally’ is false since the computation and the amount was communicated to the Naiks in a previous meeting and no objection was raised for the computation.
Saying that prior to the death of Anvay Naik and Kumud Naik, no meeting had taken place between ARG and Akshata/Adnya Naik ARG says that they can ONLY make payment to CDPL and no third party and that their account is inoperative is not in ARG’s control and under the circumstances, they had no choice but to pay to the CDPL account that they were aware of. The payment was remitted by ARG to CDPL in 4 tranches on the 30th of July 2019, but the amount was returned. In her letter, Akshata Naik had claimed that the sub-contractors of CDPL were planning to take legal action against ARG and it was because of that ARG had agreed to meet the Naiks. However, ARG says that this assertion is false. The sub-contractors had, in fact, told ARG about Akshata and Adnya Naik’s unwillingness to resolve this issue by becoming the shareholders/directors of CDPL. “ARG had made payments amounting to Rs 5,21,54,383 to CDPL in the past”, the letter says, asserting that their allegation that ARG wanted to ‘cheat’ CDPL is completely baseless.
Abetment to suicide case and Arnab Goswami: Important question that arises from the exchange of letters between ARG and CDPL:
1. From all the facts that have come to the fore, the first and foremost thing which is clear is that an FIR was filed on the very same day that the bodies of Anvay Naik and his mother Kumud Naik were discovered. Why did Adnya Naik then claim that the police had refused to file an FIR in the case and supposedly got ‘scared’ after they heard the name of Arnab Goswami? In fact, on the next day itself, the police visited Republic TV to inform of the case and on the 8th, only a couple of days later, ARG executives submitted details to the police.
This claim was not only made by Adnya Naik in her interview to Caravan Magazine but also by Akshata Naik on several occasions in several of her videos. This claim is false.
2. In the entire interview with Caravan Magazine, Adnya Naik speaks about Arnab Goswami. She claims that Arnab had threatened Anvay Naik and said that no matter what Anvay did, he would not get the money. Further, she says that the amount payable was actually much higher than Rs. 83 lacs. She claimed that her father kept crying after being threatened by Arnab Goswami and reduced the amount payable to Rs 83 lacs.
She says in the interview, “The amount was much higher than Rs 83 lakh [the amount that Goswami owed Naik, according to the suicide note]. My father cried and kept cutting it down and finally made it Rs 83 lakhs. If someone takes Rs 25,000 from you and does not return it, you will say that if not Rs 25,000, at least return Rs 15,000”.
The fact, however, don’t add up.
This interview was given to the Caravan Magazine by Adnya Naik on the 5th of November 2020. Over a year prior, her mother, Akshata Naik had written an extremely angry letter to ARG (we have detailed the letter above). In that letter, Akshata herself never once mentioned that Anvay was threatened by Arnab Goswami or even that the amount was much higher than Rs 83 lacs. In fact, this entire claim of Arnab Goswami not wanting to pay Anvay Naik does not add up since ARG had already paid over Rs 5.20 crores to CDPL for the work done.
Adnya says that the amount was reduced from 1.2 crores to 83 lacs, however, this fact is not mentioned by her own mother in the letter she wrote.
3. Adnya claims in her interview with Caravan Magazine that “After April 2017, for more than one year, we kept demanding the money and he still did not pay”.
This claim is patently false, and that is proven by the letter Akshata Naik sent to ARG. In the letter she sent, she had given a break up of the amount she thought CDPL was owed (The amount is disputed by ARG, however, it is sufficient to refute the claims by Adnya).
This is the break-up of the amount payable that Akshata Naik had added in her letter to ARG. In this letter itself, according to Naik herself, Rs. 4.33 crores were already paid till 15th August 2017. Thereafter too, payments were made till the 31st of October 2017.
So while over Rs 5 crores were paid by ARG to CDPL till October 2017, Anvay Naik and his mother committed suicide in May 2018 over a relatively smaller amount of due compared to the amount already paid. It is not clear why Adnya Naik would lie in her interview.
4. Adnya Naik in her interview with the Caravan Magazine claimed that they did not know that a closure report had been filed in the case till May 2020.
This claim was also made by Akshata Naik, repeatedly. Even in several of her YouTube videos.
However, this claim too does not add up. As explained above, in a letter dated 6th November 2019, ARG had mentioned that according to their information, a closure report was filed in the case. Now, one can only assume that the police must have informed the Naiks as well. However, even if we assume they had not, the Naiks certainly knew about the closure reported at least by November 2019.
5. Legally, ARG cannot pay the amount personally to Akshata Naik or Adnya Naik since the contract was with CDPL. There was a relatively easy fix to this situation – Akshata Naik and Adnya Naik could have become the shareholders and/or Directors of CDPL and the dues could have been easily cleared. Why were both of them unwilling to become the shareholders/directors of the company.
6. According to Indian Express, the company had a debt of ₹26.5 crores in the fiscal year 2016. According to the closure report, the company CDPL had been in financial doldrums for the past 7-8 years. In such a scenario, is Akshata Naik refusing to become the shareholder/director of the company because she wants to accept the assets of the firm but not the debt? Since she insists she wants the amount paid to her personally?
These are some pertinent questions that must be answered in this case. There are two scenarios that could have played out had ARG agreed to the demands of Akshata Naik and Adnya Naik:
- Had ARG paid the amount to the Naiks in their personal account, since CDPL is still an active company it could have come back to claim the same amount from ARG yet again since there is no legal provision under which the amount can be paid to the Naiks personally from the company ARG when the contract was with CDPL
- In another scenario, if ARG had paid the sub-contractors of CDPL without indemnity from the representatives of CDPL, Akshata Naik and Adnya Naik could have then become the shareholders/directors of the company and demanded that ARG now paid CDPL since CDPL did not authorise them to pay the sub-contractors on their behalf.
Either way, both demands of the Naiks were beyond the realm of legality.
How Arnab Goswami was arrested in the abetment to suicide case and how it all started
After all of this, on the 26th of May, Anil Deshmukh, the Home Minister of Maharashtra had ordered that the case would be re-opened and CID would investigate the case.
Adnya Naik had complained to me that #AlibaugPolice had not investigated non-payment of dues from #ArnabGoswami‘s @republic which drove her entrepreneur father & grandmom to suicide in May 2018. I’ve ordered a CID re-investigation of the case.#MaharashtraGovernmentCares— ANIL DESHMUKH (@AnilDeshmukhNCP) May 26, 2020
Interestingly, the re-opening of the case came only a few days after Congress had brought up the issue again after they started targeted Republic TV over their coverage of Palghar case.
Mrs.Akshata Naik has alleged that her entrepreneur husband and her mother in law had to commit suicide due to non payment of dues from Mr. Arnab Goswami’s @republic.— Maharashtra Congress (@INCMaharashtra) May 5, 2020
This is serious and needs further investigation. pic.twitter.com/sp0dovnMDr
On the 7th of May, after Congress had picked up the issue, Akshata Naik had released another video where she claimed debunked details like an FIR was not filed, that she did not know about the closure report etc.
Months later, on the 4th of November, Arnab Goswami was dragged, assaulted and arrested in this case after a closure report was filed by the same police. The team was led by encounter specialise Sachin Vaze.
The magistrate, while granting judicial custody of Arnab Goswami and denying the police custody as sought by the police, made the following 9 observations:
- “A” Summary report remains in the abetment to suicide case against Arnab Goswami
- Police started probe without court permission
- The arrest of Arnab Goswami in the closed abetment to suicide case is illegal
- Even if it is accepted that Anvay Naik was being pressurised by his creditors to repay the debts, why did his mother Kumudini Naik commit suicide? Then the CJM went on to ask, “did she even commit suicide?”.
- The link between deaths and the accused not established
- No evidence that the previous investigation was incomplete
- No evidence against accused
- Evidence collected only from the complainant
- The police have failed to mention the alleged role of the accused in the suicide
The Supreme Court too, while granting bail to Arnab Goswami in the closed abetment to suicide case after 9 days of custody made some scathing observations.
In all, the abetment to suicide case against Arnab Goswami is certainly not as cut and dry as is being made out by detractors to score political points and the conduct of the police that arrested Arnab and the government that reopened the case unilaterally certainly not above reproach.