The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a notice to the Maharashtra Assembly secretary, returnable within a week, on a petition by Republic TV boss Arnab Goswami, challenging a show cause notice issued to him for breach of privilege for remarks against Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in a TV debate on actor Sushant Singh Rajput's death.
Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde, who is heading the Bench, however, expressed his doubts towards the end of the hearing on Goswami rushing to the Apex Court when the House privilege committee was yet to examine the breach, nor has it taken any decision. "There is only a breach of privilege notice. Where is that the committee of privilege has deliberated upon and decided," the CJI asked.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Goswami, drew a parallel with the Supreme Court staying summons issued to Facebook by Delhi Assembly for its alleged complicity in the Delhi riots, hoping that "they don't do anything till the matter is kept pending." The Bench, however, did not stay the notice to Goswami. Salve said a TV debate can't be made a subject of the breach of privilege.
On Salve asserting that the privilege notice cannot be issued when Goswami, Editor-in-Chief of the Republic TV, had not hindered the working of the House or any of its committees, the CJI disagreed: "You are saying that breach of privilege is not like contempt of court. What if someone calls names to Assembly outside, can't they hold the person guilty of breach of privilege?"
"Mr Salve, we still have the doubt whether the matter has still gone to the privilege committee of the House. But we will issue notice," the Bench said.
Goswami was issued a 60-page notice following a motion brought by Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik, accusing him of using derogatory language against the Chief Minister and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar for inaction by the state government in Sushant's case. A similar motion was also brought by the party MLC Manisha Kayande in the legislative council.
The Bench did not agree to summon Solicitor General Tushar Mehta as pleaded by Salve, seeking his assistance on the ground that the question arising in the instant case is pending adjudication before a 7-judge Bench of the top court in the N Ram case.
Salve argued that the breach of privilege lies only if if there was any hindrance, obstruction, interference by a person in the working of the House or that of any of its members. The CJI shot back, whether criticism of a man could lead to "interference" and thereby intimidating the chief minister's performance and obstructing it.