In a relief to Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, the Supreme Court on Friday granted him protection from arrest in connection with the privilege motion issued against him by the Maharashtra Assembly. The apex court observed that a letter from the Assembly that questioned Arnab for revealing details of the privilege motion in court amounted to intimidation and the bench issued a notice to the Assembly, asking why contempt action should not be taken against it. The Supreme Court also said that the state government must not take any steps to arrest him, in respect to this particular case.
Chief Justice SA Bobde questioned the Maharashtra Assembly over a letter sent to Arnab, where the Maharashtra Assembly had questioned Goswami for producing the missives from the Assembly in court, when he had first filed the plea. The Maharashtra Assembly had issued a notice to Arnab for breach of privilege for submitting a copy of the proceedings of the Assembly in the Supreme Court without the Speaker's permission.
"This is a serious matter and amounts to contempt. The 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 a bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
The Supreme Court bench said it is issuing a notice to the Secretary of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, to show cause as to why contempt should not be issued against him. The Secretary has been asked to respond in two weeks.
It was in September this year that the Shiv Sena-led government in Maharashtra moved a privilege motion over Arnab's statements against Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar in connection with the Sushant Singh Rajput death case.
Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik had moved the privilege motion, stating that Goswami made ‘objectionable’ comments against leaders in Maharashtra and ‘mocked’ democracy with the same.
“Without considering the reality, despite there being no link to the Chief Minister, any minister, members of the House, or leaders of the state with the death of the actor, Arnab Goswami is making baseless, imaginary false allegations and is deliberately and with mal-intentions trying to link the two under the garb of freedom of expression to create a confusion in the minds of the common people," Sarnaik had said while moving the motion.
Arnab is presently in judicial custody after he was arrested in a 2018 case of abetment to suicide. Goswami was arrested on Wednesday morning in a dramatic operation by the Mumbai and Raigad Police teams and was taken to Alibaug in connection with the case. Based on a complaint by Akshata Naik, the Alibaug Police had registered an FIR in 2018 after her husband (Anvay) and mother-in-law (Kumud Naik) killed themselves on May 5 that year. In a note that was recovered, Naik had named three people including Arnab, for allegedly defaulting on a payment of Rs 83 lakh.