Saturday, May 18, 2024

Mukul Rohatgi explains why MP Raju should not be examined in Andhra Pradesh

Mukul Rohatgi, Dushyant Dave

MP Raghurama Krishnam Raju to be examined at Military hospital, Secunderabad

(Based on report)

An MP applied for cancellation of the bail of the Chief Minister who is accused in 35 cases. And that MP is arrested three days before the hearing comes up on May 17. Explaining this background, MP Raju’s advocate Mukul Rohatgi argued before Supreme Court: “I don’t want to cast aspersions here or there, but only pointing to the extraordinary nature of this case. I applied for cancellation of the bail of the Chief Minister. He is an accused in 35 cases by the CBI and the ED. It is listed on 17 May. I am telling you this matter has huge overtones. I wanted to read the FIR to tell Your Lordships that this is a bogus case. Therefore, it is my respectful submission that he should be examined other than in Andhra”. Supreme Court granted his prayer.

MP K Ragurama krishnam Raju is taken out of Andhra Pradesh jurisdiction for medical examination and entrusted to Army Hospital in Telangana.

Also read: How can criticism be seditious?

Army hospital in Secunderabad

Within two days, the arrested MP and the Government reached Supreme Court travelling from Magistrates court to Supreme Court. Though SC did not immediately grant any bail, it ordered the medical examination of the MP K Raghurama Krishnam Raju, who alleged to have been tortured in custody, to be taken out of Andhra Pradesh and get examined medically by a board of three doctors of Army Hospital, Secunderabad of Telangana, in the presence of a judicial officer to be nominated by Telangana Chief Justice.

The MP was arrested on May 14 on the charges of sedition and was taken to the Crime Investigation Department (CID) office in Guntur district.

Andhra Pradesh High Court on Saturday dismissed his bail plea noting that “This Court, as well as the Sessions Court, have got concurrent jurisdiction, this Court is not inclined to entertain this petition directly without moving the same before the trial Judge, where entire material including remand report will be available on his production.”

The reported the hearing of arguments in Supreme Court before the vacation bench of Justices Vineet Saran and B. R. Gavai of two SLPs against these orders of denial of bail and examination by a government hospital.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi representing MP Raju, said: “This is a matter of extraordinary proportions. The basic facts are that the petitioner is a sitting MP of the ruling party itself. He has been critical of the leadership of the party and the state government for some time now. Last year, he had to move the Delhi High Court to get official security because of internal threats from various quarters”.

Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, who represented the Andhra Pradesh Government, said: “I must say something. I am appearing for the state. I have a respectful submission that if you want to hear it, then keep it on Friday. I will file my short reply and put the case diary and other documents on record”, interjected senior advocate Dushyant Dave, for the state of AP.

Mr. Rohatgi said he is praying for two reliefs today- for ad interim bail and for medical examination by a neutral hospital or a private hospital.”He has been critical of the chief minister for some time now. That is a matter of open record. Last year, he had to get security officially from the central government through the Delhi High Court because of threats by various elements in the party itself. That is the background. What happens is this – it appears that the police authorities ordered some kind of an enquiry. Obviously, I take it that it is an enquiry in which my client is not associated. That enquiry resulted in a report to the CID branch of the police that this petitioner has made these kinds of critical remarks about the government, critical of the chief minister, trying to say that the chief minister is partial to one community and not to another community”.

He pointed out that there is no allegation that his client ever “incited a rebellion or a call to arms or violence”, which is “the requirement of 124A (sedition), that has been settled for 50 years, for 100 years. The governments, as a matter of course, are adding 124A to make out a serious offence. All the other offences are bailable. They add 124A so that the man does not get bail and the court feels it is a very, very serious offence”, advanced Mr. Rohatgi.

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Rohatgi pointed another main feature of the FIR being registered without anybody complaining against the MP. He pointed that “the additional DG ordered the enquiry and received a report in a couple of days and based on that report, he himself ordered the FIR….The FIR is not at the instance of some other complainant that I have given this speech or that speech! The suo motu case is based on the enquiry by DG (CID), he himself is the complainant, he is the person who directed the enquiry!”

“The cat is now out of the bag because my client is on TV making critical comments against the government about the COVID situation. Two TV channels and their reporters have also been booked. On 14th of May, which was incidentally the birthday of the petitioner, he was at his house in Hyderabad. He was picked up by a posse of 40 policemen, taken into a car and taken to Guntur which is 300 km away. They chose to register the FIR at Guntur!”

Mr. Rohatgi alleged custodial torture against the MP. “They can register it anywhere they want in the state! It is my case that at night, he was in police custody, he was beaten up and tortured and then produced before the magistrate. The magistrate has recorded in his order that when this man was produced, the magistrate found some injuries on his feet. The magistrate also records that in December, 2020, this man had a cardiac by-pass, an open heart surgery. This is an order under 54 CrPC”

“The magistrate directs that he should be medically examined in a government hospital and also in a private hospital. Because it is our case that the government hospital will be biased. My client has still not been examined by a private hospital”, continued the senior counsel.

He narrated that when the matter was moved in the High Court for bail, the Andhra Pradesh High Court passed an order on Saturday that the petitioner should move the lower court and dismissed the bail plea, “not realising that there is concurrent jurisdiction under section 439, CrPC”. “This is an extraordinary case. These are times of Covid. According to me, this order is completely in the teeth of section 439”, argued Mr. Rohatgi.

He advanced that the second order which is challenged in the second SLP is an order in which the High Court says that the petitioner should be examined by a government hospital.”…By a board of three doctors”, pointed out Senior Advocate V. Giri, also for the state.

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Ruling party’s relative is Examining Doctor

Mr. Rohatgi further said: “This Board also says no injuries. A magistrate records that there are injuries”.. ….”What is important is that the medical board is headed by a gynaecologist whose husband is the head of the legal cell of the ruling party!”

“But for better or for worse, after the magistrate’s order, two orders were passed yesterday by the High Court. In yesterday’s order, the High Court has said that the order of the magistrate by which he directed examination even by a private hospital can remain because it is a statutory order under section 54 of the Code. The High Court itself has said that the order must be complied with. I am requesting that today he should be examined by a private or a neutral hospital, as the judge has recorded some Ramesh hospital or there are Army hospitals…”.

“The Supreme Court can direct either the Ramesh hospital or the other Army hospitals. He is also entitled to be treated in an army hospital as he is a sitting MP. But that is not relevant. The High Court itself has said that he should be examined. As of now he has not been examined”.

Next, Mr. Rohatgi took the bench through the FIR to indicate that the case is “completely bogus” and that a case for bail is made out- “Please look at the FIR, and I will submit that the High Court was wrong in sending me back and that Your Lordships should give me bail. The FIR mentions ‘Occurrence prior to 14.5.2021’- ‘Information received at Police Station Guntur on 14.5.2021’. It was received by himself (the officer who ordered the FIR)! Everything is completely bogus. The accused are the MP and two media houses and their reporters.”

Also read: Why should patients die of lack of oxygen?

Dave asks for time

At this, Mr. Dave intervened to say, “Am I not entitled to one or two days’ time? I don’t have these papers or anything. I am requesting a little accommodation. I am entitled to it as the state. I am not even asking for a week’s time. Please put it on Friday”

When the bench inquired from Mr. Rohatgi if a copy of the petition has been supplied to the state, replying in the negative, Mr. Rohatgi asserted that there is no such rule. “There was no time for a caveat. The order was passed yesterday”, pointed out Mr. Giri.

“Even without asking my government, I have no problems if Mr Rohatgi’s client is to be re-examined. There is an AIIMS at Mangalagiri in Andhra. Ramesh Hospital is a problem because last year, there was a fire there in which 20 people died. We are prosecuting that hospital for that”, added Mr. Dave.

When the bench asked if there are any army hospitals where the exercise could be undertaken, Mr. Dave said it would not be appropriate to use the Army hospitals. “Army Hospital is neither central government nor state government”, remarked the bench.

“AIIMS is also not under the state government. It is under the central government”, said Mr. Dave. The bench observed that it might not be “a neutral thing.”

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Mangalagiri AIIMS is not properly staffed

“Please keep the matter on Friday. I make a statement that we will take him to the AIIMS and have him examined and if Your Lordships feel that he should be in the presence of a senior judicial officer, it would be an examination in the presence of the senior judicial officer of the district concerned. I have no problem. We are not hiding anything. After all, he is also a citizen. I would be the last person to say that his right should not be respected. But there is a serious case here for the state to tell Your Lordships”, pressed Mr. Dave.

The bench was told that AIIMS, Mangalagiri is a newly-established hospital and is not properly staffed. “Even the high court judges who went for its inauguration said that it is being administered by the technical staff”, the bench was told.

When the bench inquired if there is any other army hospital in the vicinity, senior advocate Adinarayana Rao, also for the petitioner, replied, “There is the Naval Hospital in Visakhapatnam. That is more than 300 km away. The Cyclone would also be affecting Visakhapatnam. We would be travelling to Visakhapatnam amid the cyclone threat.”

The bench adjourned the matter by an hour, seeking to hear either the AG or the SG on the issue. The bench also required the SLPs to be shared with the state. When the bench reconvened at 12 PM, SG Tushar Mehta was present.

Mr. Dave and Mr. Giri told the bench that there is a Manipal Hospital which is also very near, about 10 km away, and that it is a private hospital and one of the best in the country.

Mr. Rohatgi persisted that it may be best that AIIMS, New Delhi examined the petitioner- “In regard to private hospital, somebody may have something or the other. The Magistrate said Ramesh Hospital, but the state is opposing it. So far as AIIMS in Mangalagiri in Andhra Pradesh is concerned, we have our own apprehensions because the governing body of AIIMS in Andhra Pradesh has on its board two prominent sitting MPs who were adverse to the petitioner.”

“He is an MP. He has an office here in Delhi. Every MP has a quarter in Delhi. I will bear the cost of being transported. Let him stay under house arrest in Delhi for two days. Your Lordships may then hear the bail tomorrow or the day after”, he pressed.

When the bench inquired from the SG if he had any objections to AIIMS, New Delhi, the SG replied, “I can never have any objections to AIIMS, Delhi. If Mr. Rohatgi is fine with AIIMS, I have no difficulty.”

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When it was urged that why an army hospital must be embroiled “in this political thing”, the bench asserted that “there is nothing political” and that “we are just talking about medical examination”.

Mr. Giri pointed out that it was Mr Rohatgi’s submission that the petitioner is entitled to be treated at an Army hospital as he is an MP.

Mr. Giri added that the Court only direct a medical examination by an army hospital and not admission- “He can only be examined. Please don’t send him to the hospital for admission. It cannot be prayed that he be kept there till Friday. No citizen can be allowed into that”.

Also read: Rule of law is not Rule of Goons with political support 

(The gave all the above details in its report today.)

Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Author is Dean, Professor of law at Mahindra University at Hyderabad and former Central Information Commissioner. He published a number books in English and Telugu.
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