The Supreme Court on Friday issued show-cause notice to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly secretary for threatening Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami for moving the court and to explain as to why contempt proceedings not be initiated against him.
"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 13 October 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 30 September 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.
The state government, which moved privilege motion against Goswami, who is currently in judicial custody after he was arrested in a closed 2018 case over alleged abetment of suicide of architect Anvay Naik.
A court in Maharashtra’s Alibaug refused to remand Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami in police custody in the abetment to suicide case while observing that the arrest of Goswami and two other accused "appears to be prima facie illegal".
Chief Judicial Magistrate Sunaina Pingle after perusal of the case diary and other relevant documents on Wednesday noted that the prosecution failed to prima facie establish a link between the deceased and the accused persons.
The magistrate in a late Wednesday night order, however, remanded Goswami and two other accused in judicial custody till 18 November.
"Taking into consideration the reasons behind the arrest of the accused persons and the arguments put forth by the accused persons, the arrest appears to be prima facie illegal," the court said.
Meanwhile the Bombay High Court is to hear a petition seeking release of Arnab Goswami.