Supreme Court shields Arnab Goswami from arrest in Maharashtra

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Supreme Court shields Arnab Goswami from arrest in Maharashtra
Supreme Court shields Arnab Goswami from arrest in Maharashtra

Mumbai : The Supreme Court on Friday initiated contempt proceedings against the Maharashtra Assembly officer Vilas Athawale and said the threat administered through the letter was "unprecedented and interfered with the administration of justice".

A bench of CJI SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian took serious view of the following sentences in the letter to Arnab Goswami: "You were informed that the proceedings of the House are confidential... Despite this, it has been observed that you have presented the proceedings of the House before the Supreme Court on October 8, 2020. No prior permission was taken from the Speaker of the Maharashtra assembly... You have knowingly breached the orders of the Speaker... and your actions amount to breach of confidentiality. This is definitely a serious matter and amounts to contempt."

Goswami’s counsel Harish Salve said the Maharashtra government was adopting all possible tactics to harass his client and sought protection from arrest by state assembly in the breach of privilege motion initiated against him for using harsh language against the CM and for not prefacing the CM’s name with Hon’ble. He went on to suggest the court could initiate suo motu contempt proceedings against the officer for attempting to interfere with administration of justice. 

The bench agreed with Salve, protected Goswami from arrest and sought assistance of attorney general KK Venugopal. It said, “Statements made by Athawale are unprecedented and tend to interfere in the course of administration of justice. The intention of Athawale 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 SC said the assembly secretary “would have been well advised to understand that the right to approach the SC under Article 32 of the Constitution is itself a fundamental right”. The bench said, “There is no doubt that if a citizen of India is deterred from approaching this court in exercise of his right under Article 32 of the Constitution, it would amount to a serious and direct interference in the administration of justice.”