The Supreme Court today issued a show cause notice to the Secretary of Maharashtra legislative assembly asking him to explain in two weeks as to why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him for his letter to journalist Arnab Goswami allegedly cautioning him against disclosing house notice to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court, which also granted protection from arrest to Arnab Goswami in the Maharashtra Assembly breach of privilege motion case, took strong note of the October 13 letter of the Assembly Secretary and said he has prima facie committed its contempt.
A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde expressed anger when senior lawyer Harish Salve, appearing for Arnab Goswami, referred to the contents of the letter of the Maharashtra Assembly Secretary to Arnab Goswami.
The bench said it was "surprised" that the officer in question has written such a letter stating the assembly proceedings were confidential and should not have been disclosed.
"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."
"The intention of the author of the letter seems to be to intimidate the petitioner because he approached this court and to threaten him with a penalty for doing so," said the bench, also comprising Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, during the proceedings held through video conferencing.
"We therefore issue notice to respondent no.2 (assembly secretary) to show cause why he should not be punished for contempt of court in exercise of power under Article 129 of the Constitution of India," it ordered.
Referring to the writing of the letter, the Supreme Court said the Assembly Secretary "would have been well advised to understand that the right to approach this court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India is itself a fundamental right."
It said there was no doubt that if a citizen is deterred in any way from approaching this court in the exercise of his right under Article 32, it would "amount to serious interference in the administration of justice in the country."
The Supreme Court took strong note of the fact that the assembly secretary, who was served with Arnab Goswami's plea, chose to write the letter to the journalist cautioning him against disclosing the house notice to the top court instead of putting an appearance.
"We find that though respondent has been served... instead of entering appearance they have issued a letter in question to the petitioner," the bench said.
The top court, in its order, also noted that senior lawyer Abhishek M Singhvi, appearing for Maharashtra, expressed his inability to "explain or justify the contents" of the letter of Assembly Secretary to Arnab Goswami.
It also appointed senior advocate Arvind Datar as an amicus curiae to assist it in the case.
The Supreme Court was hearing the plea by journalist Arnab Goswami against the show cause notice by the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly for initiation of breach of privilege motion against him for reportage related to the case of actor Sushant Singh Rajput's death.
The show cause notice has been issued to Arnab Goswami for making certain remarks against Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackrey in his news debates on Sushant Rajput's case.
The Supreme Court was earlier informed by Arnab Goswami's counsel that it cannot be construed as a breach of privilege.
In its order, the bench had said, There is nothing wrong in summoning by the Assembly but if any action is taken by the privilege committee then you can challenge it.
On September 30, the Supreme Court had sought Maharashtra Assembly secretary's response on Arnab Goswami's plea.
Arnab Goswami's counsel had earlier told the bench that the journalist has not interfered with either the proceedings of any of the committees of the Assembly or the Assembly itself.
Sushant Singh Rajput, 34, was found dead in his apartment in suburban Bandra in Mumbai on June 14. The CBI is investigating the case.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)