Controversial Indian news anchor arrested for allegedly abetting architect's suicide

Indian television news anchor Arnab Goswami sits inside a police vehicle after he was produced in a court following his arrest in Mumbai, India, on November 4, 2020.

New Delhi, India (CNN)One of India's most well-known and controversial news anchors has been arrested for allegedly abetting the suicide of an architect, local police said, in a case that reflects the country's increasingly fraught and politicized media environment.

Arnab Goswami, the face and founder of right-wing broadcaster Republic TV, was arrested at his home in Mumbai in the western Indian state of Maharashtra Wednesday for his alleged role in the death of Anvay Naik, who died by suicide in 2018, according to a statement Wednesday from the broadcaster.
Ashok Dudhe, superintendent of police of Raigad district in the western state of Maharashtra, confirmed that Goswami was arrested for allegedly abetting a suicide, a crime that under the Indian penal code carries a possible 10 year prison sentence in India. Goswami and two others were remanded to judicial custody late Wednesday night, according to a court order.
    Anvay Naik's wife Akshata Naik and daughter Adnya Naik address media during a press conference after Arnab Goswami's arrest on November 4, 2020 in Mumbai, India.
    In a video posted online in May and shared widely by Indian social media users, Naik's wife Akshata Naik alleged that Goswami aided Naik's suicide by failing to pay Naik for designing his television studio. Naik's suicide note -- which CNN has independently verified with Naik's daughter -- claimed that Goswami and two other people owed him $726,000.
      But Goswami and Republic TV deny those allegations, saying in a statement Wednesday that 90% of the money was paid to Naik's company over two years ago. The official court document on the case does not specify whether the money was paid before or after his death.
        According to Goswami's statement, police previously investigated him for his alleged role in the suicide, but the case was closed in April last year after police found "no proof of any illegality."
        Instead, Republic TV said that the pro-government anchor's arrest was made "as part of a larger vindictive exercise against an independent journalist and an independent news organization" and claim it was an "attack on the fourth estate."
          That sentiment has been reinforced by members of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but state politicians deny that the arrest is political.
          According to a court order, investigations resumed after a fresh complaint from Naik's wife. Following that, more evidence emerged in the case against Goswami.
          CNN has contacted the Mumbai Crime Branch but has not received a comment. The Raigad police confirmed Goswami's arrest but has not shared further details of the investigation.
          Republic TV's Arnab Goswami appears at a police station in relation to other allegations on June 10, 2020 in Mumbai, India.

          Is Goswami's arrest an attack on press freedom?

          When Naik died in 2018, Maharashtra was governed by the BJP.
          But in last year's legislative assembly elections, Maharashtra voted against the BJP, instead installing a more liberal coalition government of Shiv Sena, Indian Congress, and the Nationalist Congress Party.
          In the following months, Goswami and Republic TV have become outspoken critics of the state's more left-leaning leaders, while boosting support for the BJP. In their statement Wednesday, the channel argued that the arrest was "revenge" for his coverage.
          But Maharashtra officials have denied that accusation.
          When asked whether Goswami had been arrested due to his negative comments about the Maharashtra government, the state's Home Minister Anil Deshmukh -- who is a member of the Nationalist Congress Party -- told reporters that the investigation was in keeping with law and order.
          "Nobody is above the law," he told reporters Wednesday.
          Members of rightwing Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) shout slogans against Maharashtra state government as they protest the arrest of television news anchor Arnab Goswami in in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020.