Maharashtra Council passes proposal to not respond to court notice, summons over Arnab Goswami breach of privilege proceedings

Breach of privilege motions have been moved against Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami separately in both Houses of Maharashtra Legislature.(PTI)
Breach of privilege motions have been moved against Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami separately in both Houses of Maharashtra Legislature.(PTI)
Published on Dec 16, 2020 12:06 AM IST
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By Swapnil Rawal, Mumbai

Maharashtra Legislative Council unanimously passed a proposal on Tuesday to not take cognisance of any notice or summons issued by high court or Supreme Court if Republic TV’s managing director and editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami challenges the breach of privilege proceedings initiated against him by the Upper House of the state Legislature.

The pre-emptive move came after Goswami moved SC in September, urging it to issue a notice to Maharashtra Assembly speaker to clarify stand on the claim of a House official who said he sent a letter to the journalist in a matter of alleged breach of privilege motion at the Speaker’s direction.

Breach of privilege motions have been moved against Goswami separately in both Houses of Maharashtra Legislature. Shiv Sena legislator Manisha Kayande had moved a breach of privilege motion against Goswami on September 8 in the legislative Council.

On Tuesday, Council chairman Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar said no response should be given to the notices, summons and any other correspondence by Goswami through his lawyers. Nimbalkar said Goswami challenged the privilege motion moved by the Assembly in SC. “In this background, the possibility of Goswami challenging the breach of privilege motion of Legislative Council in SC cannot be ruled out. If Goswami challenges the breach of privilege motion raised in Council in high court or Supreme Court, then, with all due respect to the HC and SC, no response should be given to the notices, summons and any other correspondence by Goswami through his lawyers as per the provisions of the Article 194 and 212 of the Constitution to maintain the sovereign position of the Legislature,” the chairman said.

Moving a proposal to this effect, Nimbalkar said responding to the notices would mean the judiciary can keep a check on the legislature and that would be inconsistent with the “basic structure of the Constitution”. The chairman said earlier the Council had passed a similar proposal to not respond to HC or SC in a particular case in 2010.

“So, if Goswami challenges motion in HC and SC through a writ petition, then the Council Chairman, chief of privilege committee, members of the House, secretaries and other officials should not give any response to correspondence by the court and also should not appear in HC and SC,” he said.

According to Nimbalkar, if Goswami challenges the proceeding in courts, then the legislature secretariat must communicate the “legislature’s functioning and well-established customs and traditions to the minister for Parliamentary affairs and Advocate General to bring it to the notice of SC.”

The SC on November 6 had issued a show-cause notice to an assistant secretary of Maharashtra legislative Assembly, asking him to explain why contempt proceedings should be not initiated against him for his letter to Goswami which seems to “intimidate” him for approaching the Apex Court on the issue of alleged breach of privilege motion.

HT made several attempts to contact leader of Opposition in the Council Pravin Darekar, but he was unavailable for a comment. Darekar had not responded to messages till the time of going to print.

Pune-based constitutional expert Ulhas Bapat said that move by the Chairman is in line with the powers that rest with him. “The position is very clear, if a notice is issued to an individual, he or she has to respond. Under the separation of powers, members of the legislature are only responsible to the Chairman [of legislative Council] or the Speaker [of legislative Assembly]. They, anyway, cannot respond to notices issued unless permitted [by them]... We are a Parliamentary democracy in the state as well. Legislature is supreme as far as the administration is concerned. Entire power rests with the Speaker or the Chairman. The staff is under the Chairman and Speakers. Whatever position Nimbalkar has taken is correct,” Bapat said.

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Friday, October 22, 2021