- Inquiry should be done by retired judges with impeccable reputation
- It is good for the concerned judges
K. Ramachandra Murthy
Prashant Bhushan, the daredevil, public interest advocate, wrote a piece which was published in The Hindu Monday asking the Chief Justice of India (CJI) to constitute a committee to probe into the serious allegations levelled by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy against a Supreme Court judge. Referring to one of the allegations made by the CM, Prashant said, “The charge is that the land was purchased by persons, including the Supreme Court judge’s daughters and in-laws (named subsequently in an FIR), after declaration of the capital area limits, at the same low price for the lands which existed before the demarcation, when in fact the market prices had skyrocketed, thereby causing huge pecuniary gain to them.
In this connection, in March, the Principal Secretary (Home), Andhra Pradesh Government, wrote to the Secretary of the Union Ministry of Public Grievances and Pensions seeking a CBI inquiry into the findings in land purchases. The sub-committee (of the AP Cabinet) had ‘opined that public servants at the helm of affairs in the erstwhile government misused and abused their official position to predetermine the location of the new capital and subsequently purchased lands to unjustifiably and illegally benefit their associates and their companies and businesses, family members and political party members…’
Under reported facts
This has been quoted for the simple reason that some media outfits have been pointing out that the daughters of the judge had purchased the lands in June 2015, well after the capital region was declared in December 2014. People were given to understand that the lands were purchased between Chandrababu Naidu took over the reins of the State and the date on which the capital region was announced. The accusation of manipulation does not hold water if the lands were purchased after the announcement of the capital region. The fact that the daughters of the judge paid much lower prices than the existing market price was not known to the people. This aspect has not been reported by many newspapers and news channels in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana State. That the principal secretary, Home, of AP had written to the Centre way back in March 2020 requesting for a CBI probe was also not well reported.
Making contents public is fine
Prashant Bhushan has supported the decision of Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy to get the letter he had written to the CJI released to the media through his principal advisor, Ajeya Kallam. The famous advocate asks two questions. 1. Whether such a letter/complaint against the Supreme Court judge should have been put out in the public domain; 2. What the CJI response should be. He says making content of the letter public was not at all objectionable. The contents were in public domain even before writing the letter. He says in 1997, judges adopted an in-house procedure for inquiring into such charges. In case of a complaint against a Supreme Court judge, the CJI is expected to order an inquiry by three sitting judges of the Supreme Court. Since Justice Ramana is second in seniority and is most likely to succeed the present CJI in April next year, the sitting judges of the SC, who would be juniors to him, are likely to hesitate to inquire into the allegations.
Set up an inquiry committee
Prashant Bhushan, therefore, suggested that only retired judges of high credibility would be able to conduct a robust inquiry into Jagan Mohan Reddy’s complaint. “The Chief Justice should set up a credible inquiry committee. This will enhance the reputation of the judiciary, dispel mistruths, and redeem the damage of the judge concerned,” he concluded. In fact, it will be good for all the judges against whom the allegations were made. This precisely is the demand made by right thinking, neutral persons who want the credibility of the judiciary to remain intact.