Jagan’s complaint and Judiciary
- Jagan made allegations, not complaint
- How to prove SC judge influencing the HC?
- Nearly 30 PILs filed in HC
Prof Madabhushi Sridhar Acharyulu
It is often quoted that the “Justice must not only be done but must also be seen to be done”. This dictum was laid down by Lord Hewart, the then Lord Chief Justice of England in the case of Rex v. Sussex Justices,  1 KB 256. If this is requirement of the ‘judiciary’, the King also has certain duties, as it goes the Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.
Here is one Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy with more than dozen criminal charges pending to be tried and there is one Bench of Supreme Court headed by No.2 Senior Justice N. V. Ramana, that is monitoring speedy trial of such cases against political leaders.
The respect for judiciary raises to heights if the justice is done and appears to have been done. Credibility of the people’s government depends upon the corruption-free and crime-free administration. Jagan Mohan Reddy raised the suspicion about objectivity of the decisions of the AP High Court in recent times after he assumed office of the Chief Minister when number of judgments of the High Court that found to be constitutionally wrong
Not a war between Executive & Judiciary
It is not proper to describe the AP Chief Ministers scathing letter of complaint to the Chief Justice of India as ‘attack’ on judiciary or ‘declaration of war’ against the Judiciary. The tendency of media and others to exaggerate and sensationalise should not create rifts between two constitutional institutions. Describing it as a war between AP Government and Judiciary, might amount to disagreement with writing of a letter or filing a complaint.
It is a CM’s complaint
It is agreed that the content of AP CM’s letter is very serious, sensational, its consequences could be quite unusual or extra ordinary. The action of Jagan Mohan Reddy can be classified as primarily a complaint against the multiple adverse orders affecting his government, with a strong suspicion against a Supreme Court Judge, whose earlier connections with Telugu Desam Party is shown as basis. The letter contains a serious allegation. The CM has every right and authority like any citizen to file a complaint in such circumstances. One reason is that he is a party to series of litigations who lost most of the cases in AP High Court. As a party to dispute, who does not get justice or feels strongly that he did not get justice, he has a justification in such an act of complaining.
How to prove undue influence?
The question that needs to be considered is can the Government of Andhra Pradesh prove its allegation of ‘undue influence’ over the AP High Court. Whether annexures given are enough, or is there any other evidence available to be shown at the time of inquiry if ordered? That is not known at this point of time.
The allegation is not just against the Supreme Court judge but also against specifically named judges of AP High Court. This assumes serious propositions. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s complaint is viewed as a dare devil act alleging bias against some judges.
Criticism and Allegation
We have seen recently, Prashant Bhushan criticising the role of Supreme Court and especially its last four Chief Justices in the destruction of democratic institutions. This was considered as contempt of court and brings the institution into discredit or disrepute. Though under review, the SC has imposed a penalty which was paid by the contemnor. The allegation of Jagan Mohan Reddy against Judge of Supreme Court influencing the High Court and AP High Court allegedly succumbing to such influence is serious. It is not criticism, but an allegation. There were two views about Prashant Bhushan’s criticism, it could be contemptuous, or it is just exercise of freedom of expression. The allegation of Jagan Mohan Reddy is specifically against one SC Judge and some named HC judges, which are very serious than general critical observations of Prashant Bhushan.
Jagan Mohan Reddy in his eight-page letter initially expresses his belief in Constitutional institutions including Judiciary and then begins his ‘unpleasant duty’ to place on record the complaint to the Chief Justice of India. In paragraph (a) he exposed malfeasances and misfeasance of Chandrababu Naidu leading to the amassing huge wealth during his rule between 2014-19. Jagan stated he believed that such a course of disapproval of Naidu’s misdeeds was perfectly within the Constitutional authority vested in an elected Government.
AP Govt asks CBI to probe Naidu assets
The letter explains that the Committee headed by him prima facie found that various individuals and bodies corporate closely associated with Chandrababu Naidu and his government purchased considerable extent of land (approximately in the order of 4000 acres) by adopting various illegal means. He stated that the report was such committee was placed before the Legislative Assembly, which opined deeper enquiry was needed into the allegations, and the Government forwarded the report to Union of India seeking CBI investigation into it. Jagan Mohan Reddy explained that though his Government was competent enough to take up appropriate action on these illegalities, he preferred inquiry by a body over which he would not have administrative control, to avoid the criticism of political vendetta.
The paragraphs from (a) to (c) of CM’s letter reflect no problem or illegality at all. It was a right move of the CM to hand over the investigation into the acts of former Chief Minister and leader of opposition to the CBI instead of retaining it with his own police administration.
Probing into decisions of Naidu
In paragraph (d), the CM stated: “it is my painful duty to place on record that in the course of enquiry by the Cabinet Sub-Committee and also during the course of preliminary investigation conducted by the Anti-Corruption Bureau in a complaint, it came to light that two daughters of Honorable Sri Justice N V Ramana, a sitting Judge of Supreme Court and some of his close associates and relatives are beneficiaries of various questionable transactions of land within the area which came to be eventually notified as a location of the new capital proposed by Sri Chandrababu Naidu. The said transactions took place in the interregnum period between Mr Chandrababu Naidu’s swearing in as CM of AP and the public announcement of location of the new capital. From the records it appears that a few transactions were routed through Mr Dammalapati Srinivas who at the relevant point of time was functioning as Additional Advocate General of AP. It is a notorious fact that said Mr Srinivas is too closely associated with Sri Justice N. V. Ramana and N. Chandrababu Naidu with whose blessings he eventually became the Advocate General of Andhra Pradesh”.
Insider trading allegation
Crux of the complaint is explained in this paragraph: “Around January 2020, it was in the public domain that high functionaries of various institutions, have purchased lands in Amaravati. A series of Writ Petitions were filed since January 2020 challenging the Bills passed by the Assembly providing for three capitals and one of the key points discussed in the Assembly, was the stake of vested interests in Amaravati capital and agencies reports indicated that the protests organized in this regard, were funded and organized by such vested individuals. Nearly 30 PILs were got filed at various stages of legitimate government functioning, impleading the Chief Minister as party respondent, with the choicest of abuses”.
How the ‘influence’ to be probed?
Main allegation is that the SC Judge is influencing the AP High Court’s judges to give pro-TDP orders. The letter pointed out three aspects in support of his allegation- The course of influence was in the areas of: 1)Roster for sitting of the Honourable Judges, whereby important matters of policy and protection for Chandrababu Naidu’s interests were posted before a few Honourable Judges (names given), 2)The entertaining of PILs lowering the threshold for acceptance of PILs by the High Court on the judicial side, 3) Some specific orders passed by the Honourable Court.
Roster for sitting of benches and taking up matters is power with the Chief Justice, which was point of criticism of four SC judges who revolted against Chief Justice of India. But how can anybody say that someone from Delhi has influenced constituting the benches and allocating the matters?
Enclosures to letter contain opinion on candidates proposed to be elevated as judges of High Court from Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and Justice N. V. Ramana, senior member of Collegium, which were verbatim same, though given separately. This is quoted to establish proximity between the two. Is that enough to prove the continued proximity between former CM and SC Judge?
Another set of enclosures are claimed to be meant for media, which listed the orders of High Court judges that were allegedly given to protect the interests of Telugu Desham leaders.
The orders of HC to stay the investigation into deaths in Ramesh Hospital, insider trading allegations and gag order on media from reporting the contents of FIR were criticised as unreasonable and biased. The controversy kicked off by the Jagan’s government quoting orders against the government allegedly supporting interests of opposition TDP, will have a direct impact on functioning of the High Court in Andhra Pradesh. Whether the High Court benches should go ahead with hearing of the cases or not? Or should the AP HC look to Supreme Court for the guidance? Dozens of petitions which are in different stages of hearing will depend upon the response to the Chief Justice of India. An atmosphere of uncertainty and confusion is prevailing over the adjudication of the cases in Andhra Pradesh.