A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde of Supreme Court summoned Maharashtra Assembly Secretary for allegedly intimidating Arnab Goswami which the court observed was done with the object of deterring Goswami from moving the Supreme Court.
The Court took strong exception to a letter written by the Secretary to Goswami on October 13 in which Goswami was allegedly criticized for producing before the Supreme Court, the minutes of proceedings sent to him by the Speaker and Privileges Committee of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly in relation to a breach of privilege motion.
CJI Bobde said that such attempts to prevent citizens from exercising their rights under Article 32 would amount to serious interference with the administration of justice. The Secretary has been asked to be personally present in court for the next hearing and explain why contempt of court action should not be initiated against him for the October 13 letter.
The Bench which also comprised Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian observed that the letter was in the teeth of Article 32 and amounted to a threat to prevent Goswami from moving the Supreme Court.
“The officer says how did you file this notice in the Supreme Court. How dare he? No one can be stopped from approaching this Court,”
Letter to Arnab Goswami
The Secretary in his letter to Goswami had stated that though the Republic TV Editor was informed that the proceedings relating to breach of privilege motion initiated by Maharashtra Assembly against Goswami were confidential, he had presented the same before Supreme Court in breach of confidentiality.
“You have knowingly breached the notice of assembly and it amounts to breach of confidentiality,” the October 13 letter from secretary to Goswami said.
The Court noted that such statements made in the letter are unprecedented and has the tendency to bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
“The intention of the officer seems to be to intimidate the petitioner because he moved the Supreme Court and to threaten him with penalty for doing so. The officer would have been well advised that the right to approach this Court under Article 32 is itself a fundamental right”, the court said.
Goswami had approached the Supreme Court challenging the September 16 privilege motion sent to him by the Maharashtra Assembly for his criticism of the government and intimidating Arnab Goswami inaction in the Sushant Singh Rajput suicide case.
The 60-page privilege notice against Arnab Goswami was sent after motions were moved against him by the Shiv Sena in the both Assembly Houses in Maharashtra for intimidating Arnab Goswami.
A privilege motion can be moved if an individual or authority violates or disregards any of the privileges, powers, and immunities of the House concerned or members of the House or Committee. What amounts to breach of privilege or contempt is decided by the House, which also decides the punishment.
In his response to the privilege notice, Goswami had released a statement on his channel, Republic TV stating that he would continue to question Uddhav Thackeray and elected representatives, and that he has decided to contest the notice highlighting the issue of intimidating Arnab Goswami.
The Supreme Court had issued notice in Goswami’s plea on September 30.
When the case came up for hearing on Friday, Senior Counsel Harish Salve, representing Goswami, brought the October 13 letter to the notice of the court.
“My client has been warned that he will spent Diwali in jail. Please stay the Assembly notice. I don’t want him to get bail in suicide case (abetment to suicide of interior designer Anvay Naik for which Goswami is currently in judicial custody) only to be hauled up by the (Maharashtra) Assembly,” Salve submitted.
He requested the court to take suo motu cognizance of the letter for intimidating Arnab Goswami and seek an explanation from the Secretary on why the same would not amount to contempt of court.
“We have serious questions about what this letter means. We have serious questions about the intent of the author of the letter. We have not seen this in a court like this. You cannot threaten people and say ‘how dare can you provide assembly notice to the Supreme Court’,” CJI Bobde told Senior Counsel AM Singhvi who was representing the State of Maharashtra
The Court went on to issue show cause notice to the Secretary while also protecting Goswami from arrest in the matter. The case of contempt and intimidating Arnab Goswami will be heard again after Diwali vacation of Supreme Court.