SC issues contempt notice to Maharashtra Assembly Secretary for threatening Arnab for moving court

A Bench headed by CJI SA Bobde asks him to remain present before it on next date of hearing

SC issues contempt notice to Maharashtra Assembly Secretary for threatening Arnab for moving court

Photo for representation only

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 6

The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Secretary asking him to explain why contempt proceedings not be initiated against him for threatening Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami for moving the court.

"Can any authority in the country penalise someone for approaching this court? This is in the teeth of Article 32. How dare this officer write something like this in his letter?" a Bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde said pulling up the Maharashtra Assembly Secretary.

"We have a serious question on the author of this letter and we find it extremely difficult to overlook this,” the CJI said.

The top court ordered the Assembly Secretary to remain present before it on the next date.

It also appointed senior advocate Arvind Datar as amicus curiae and posted the matter for further hearing after two weeks.

The court told senior advocate AM Singhvi, representing the Maharashtra government, to look into the conduct of the officer concerned.

The CJI's outburst came after senior advocate Harish Salve, representing Goswami, told the Bench that the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Secretary wrote a letter to Goswami on October 13 questioning the Republic TV Editor-in-Chief for "breaching" confidentiality of privilege proceedings by moving the top court.

The Bench also granted protection from arrest to Goswami in this case as Salve urged the court to protect him from any coercive action by the Privileges Committee of the Assembly.

Pointing out that "cases after cases" were being filed against Goswami, Salve said, "Constitutional courts have to see the reality, not the smokescreen."

The Assembly Secretary, who had already been served with a notice on Arnab's petition, hasn't made an appearance so far in the court.

Instead, he wrote a letter to Goswami threatening him for approaching the court.

Noting that the letter written by the Secretary of the Assembly was unprecedented and had a tendency to bring the administration of justice to disrepute, the Bench said it also amounted to interference with the administration of justice.

"The intention of the author (Assembly Secretary) seems to intimidate the petitioner (Goswami) because he approached this court and threaten him with a penalty for doing so," the top court said.

In its order, the court said the Assembly Secretary must know that the right to approach the Supreme Court under Article 32 itself was a fundamental right.

"There is no doubt that if a citizen is deterred from exercising his right under Article 32, it will amount to serious interference with the administration of justice," the top court said.

The Supreme Court had on September 30 issued notice to the Maharashtra Assembly Secretary on Goswami’s petition challenging a notice breach of privilege issued to him for his alleged remarks against Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in Sushant Singh Rajput death case.

It had asked the Maharashtra Assembly Secretary to respond to Goswami's petition within a week after Salve submitted his client didn't interfere with the proceedings of the House or any of its committees.

Rajput, a Bollywood actor, was allegedly found hanging at his Bandra residence in Mumbai on June 14. The Supreme Court on August 19 ordered a CBI probe into his unnatural death, saying, “A fair, competent and impartial investigation is the need of the hour.”

Unless there was interference in the functioning of the House or its committees breach of privilege motion can’t be initiated against an outsider, Salve had said.

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