Tribune News Service
New Delhi, November 24
Faced with contempt proceedings for threatening Arnab Goswami for moving the Supreme Court over the breach of privilege proceedings initiated against the Republic TV editor-in-chief, the Maharashtra Assembly Assistant Secretary on Tuesday said the controversial letter was issued at the instance of the Speaker.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing the Maharashtra Assembly Assistant Secretary, told a Bench — headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde — that no contempt was made out as there was no attempt to obstruct the administration of justice in issuing the letter to Arnab.
On behalf of Arnab, senior advocate Harish Salve urged the top court to issue a notice to the Speaker.
Dave opposed Salve’s submission even as Amicus Curiae Arvind Datar supported the Speaker being issued a notice as the Assistant Secretary of the Assembly was only acting as an agent of the Speaker.
“The Speaker shouldn’t argue tomorrow that he wasn’t heard by this court,” said the CJI and adjourned the matter for two weeks.
The Supreme Court, on November 6, had issued a contempt of court notice to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Secretary for threatening Arnab Goswami for moving the court over the breach of privilege proceedings initiated against the Republic TV editor-in-chief.
“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?” the Bench headed had asked.
“We have a serious question on the author of this letter and we find it extremely difficult to overlook this,” the CJI had said.
The Bench had appointed senior advocate Arvind Datar as amicus curiae and posted the matter for further hearing after two weeks.
An angry CJI had told senior advocate AM Singhvi, representing the Maharashtra Government, to look into the conduct of the officer concerned.
The CJI’s outburst had come after senior advocate Harish Salve, representing Goswami, told the Bench that the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Secretary wrote a letter to Goswami on October 13 threatening the Republic TV editor-in-chief for “breaching” confidentiality of privilege proceedings by moving the top court.
The Bench had 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 had 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, had written a letter to Goswami threatening him for approaching the court.
Terming the letter written by the Secretary of the Assembly as unprecedented, the Bench said it had a tendency to bring the administration of justice to disrepute and it amounted to interference with the administration of the 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 had 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” it said.
The top court had on September 30 issued a notice to Maharashtra Assembly Secretary on Goswami’s petition challenging a notice for breach of privilege issued to him for his alleged remarks against Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case.