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Show cause notice to Maha Assembly Assistant Secretary; letter to Arnab Goswami accusing him of breaching confidentiality interferes with administration of justice: SC

The Supreme Court Friday issued a show-cause notice to the Assistant Secretary of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly asking him why contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against him for interfering in the administration of justice.

This followed a letter written by Assistant Secretary Vilas Athawale to the Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV Arnab Goswami on October 13 accusing the latter of breaching the confidentiality of privilege proceedings against him.

The top court also stayed the arrest of Goswami in a case related to the privilege notice by the Legislative Assembly.

Goswami, in his plea challenging Maharashtra Assembly’s breach of privilege motion case against him, had annexed documents of the Legislative Assembly to his petition. Taking strong objection to this, the Assistant Secretary to Legislative Assembly wrote to Goswami accusing him of knowingly breaching the orders of the Speaker of the Maharashtra Assembly. The letter said his actions amounted to a breach of confidentiality and was serious enough to amount to contempt.

Taking note of the letter, a bench led by CJI S A Bobde observed that it was unprecedented and tended to interfere in the administration of justice.

(LtoR)- Justice A S Bopanna, CJI S A Bobde and Justice V. Ramasubramanian.

“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 bench, which also comprised Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said.

The office of the Assistant Secretary would have been well advised to understand that the right to approach the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India is itself a fundamental right, it added.

There is no doubt, the Court said, that if a citizen of India is deterred in any case from approaching this Court in exercise of his right under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, it would amount to serious and direct interference in the administration of justice in the country.

The Court also appointed senior advocate Arvind Datar as Amicus Curiae to assist the Court in the matter. Notice has also been sent to the Attorney General.

In a separate case, Goswami has been remanded to 14 days’ judicial custody in connection with a 2018 abetment-to-suicide case. The Bombay High Court today adjourned the plea for tomorrow against his arrest in the suicide case.

Read the Order