The Supreme Court on Friday sent a show-cause notice to the Assistant Secretary of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, asking why contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against him for a letter sent by him to Arnab Goswami.
The court was hearing the Republic editor-in-chief’s challenge to the breach of privilege notice sent by the Assembly to him over his comments regarding Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and other politicians during his coverage of the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput.
While the case was going on, the Assistant Secretary sent a letter to Goswami on 13 October, in which he warned the journalist against disclosing privileged documents related to the case in the materials being submitted to the court.
The details of the letter were stated in court on Friday by Goswami’s lawyer, senior advocate Harish Salve during the course of the hearing, following which the bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde expressed their anger and surprise.
“This is a serious matter and amounts to contempt. The above statements are unprecedented and have a tendency to bring the administration of justice into disrepute and in any case may amount to direct interference in the administration of Justice.”CJI Bobde’s comments, according to PTI
The court observed that the right of a citizen to approach the apex court is a fundamental right under Article 32 of the Constitution, which was why the Assistant Secretary’s letter was an attempt to interfere with the administration of justice, and hence required a notice to be sent to him.
“The intention of the author of the said letter viz., Mr Vilas Athawale, Assistant Secretary, Maharashtra Vidhan Mandal Sachivalaya, seems to be to intimidate the petitioner because the petitioner approached this court and to threaten him with a penalty for seeking legal remedy,” The Leaflet reported.
The bench was also not impressed by the fact that the Assistant Secretary had sent this letter to Goswami instead of appearing in court, despite being served, according to PTI.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar has been appointed as an amicus curiae in this matter. With the matter adjourned till the apex court’s Diwali break ends, the judges also directed that no coercive action could be taken against Goswami in the meantime.
Note that this case is different from the abetment of suicide case in Maharashtra in which Goswami remains in judicial custody for now after his arrest by the Maharashtra Police on 4 November.