Arnab gets SC ‘protection’ in privilege case, but no respite from HC

Chief Justice SA Bobde termed the Maharashtra secretary of Assembly’s letter to Goswami as “unprecedented and shocking” and one which interferes with the administration of justice by intimidating the applicant for approaching court

Maharashtra's secretary of Assembly, in a letter to Arban Goswami, had allegedly threatened him for breaching the confidentiality of the proceedings of the House by approaching the top court against a breach of privilege notice.

The Chief Justice of Supreme Court is miffed over a letter written by Maharashtra’s secretary of Assembly to Republic TV editor Arban Goswami, allegedly threatening Goswami for breaching the confidentiality of the proceedings of the House by approaching the top court against a breach of privilege notice.

The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice of contempt to the secretary of the Assembly for writing the letter on October 13, which was produced in the court by Goswami’s lawyer Harish Salve, who submitted an application with an affidavit by the 47-year-old journalist’s wife.

Arnab, however, got no respite in the 2018 abetment to suicide case, in which he has been arrested as the hearing on his interim bail plea in the Bombay High Court would continue on Saturday because of lack of time.

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“We will assemble for this matter specially tomorrow (Saturday) noon,” a division bench of justices S S Shinde and M S Karnik said they as they didn’t find the time on Friday.

Goswami was arrested from his Mumbai home on Wednesday. He is in judicial custody till November 18 in the abetment to suicide case.

Related News: Explained: The 2018 suicide case against Arnab Goswami

The Supreme Court has asked the secretary of the Assembly to remain present during the hearing, which happens after Diwali vacation of the court ie, after two weeks. Till then, the court said, Goswami cannot be arrested in the privilege matter.

The Supreme Court bench, comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde, justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, termed the letter as “unprecedented and shocking” and one which interferes with the administration of justice by intimidating the applicant (in this case Goswami) for approaching 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,” CJI Bobde said.

“The clear intention of the author of the letter seems to be to intimidate the petitioner because he approached the Court and to threaten him with a penalty for doing so,” it said. “The Assembly should be well advised to understand that the right to approach this Court under Article 32 of Constitution is itself a fundamental right,” the court said.

What did the Maharashtra secretary of Assembly write?

The secretary wrote to Goswami that though the Republic TV editor was informed that the proceedings relating to breach of privilege motion initiated by the Maharashtra Assembly against Goswami were confidential, he (Goswami) had presented the same before the 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 said.

The 60-page privilege notice against Arnab Goswami was sent after motions were moved against him by the Shiv Sena in the both the Assembly Houses in Maharashtra.

Also read: Sena says Fadnavis govt covered up suicide case to protect Arnab

When is a privilege motion moved against an individual?

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.

How did Arnab respond to the privilege notice?

In response to the notice, Goswami 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.

What happens next?

The Supreme Court has asked the secretary of Maharashtra Assembly to remain present during the hearing, which happens after Diwali vacation of the court ie, after two weeks.

Till then, the court said, Goswami cannot be arrested in the privilege matter.

The top court has issued a notice to Attorney General KK Venugopal to assist in this matter.

Related News: Second FIR against Arnab Goswami for ‘assaulting’ woman cop

Goswami was arrested on Wednesday from his house in Mumbai and was then taken to Alibaug in connection with a 2018 case of abetment to suicide. Designer Anvay Naik and his mother Kumud Naik died of suicide and named Goswami as one of the three people who didn’t pay dues amounting to Rs 5.4 crore.

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