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Monday, November 30, 2020

Explained Ideas: SC must expeditiously address Andhra CM’s allegations

An incumbent chief minister writing a missive to the CJI alleging such wrongdoing by a high court is unprecedented in independent India, writes Upendra Baxi.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: November 3, 2020 8:44:41 am
Jagan mohan reddy, NV Ramana, jagan letter to CJI, Jagan reddy NV Ramana, Andhra Pradesh govt, supreme court, chandrababu naidu, express explained, indian expressThe CM made an allegation of ‘destabilising’ his government against a senior justice of the Supreme Court of India without meeting the robust evidentiary threshold for prima facie enquiry, writes Baxi. (File)

The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister has attacked the “neutrality” of the high court and alleged a “nexus” between that court and some justices and the Chief Justice and Justice N V Ramana, due to become the 48th CJI when CJI S A Bobde retires on April 23, 2021.

“Never in the history of independent India has an incumbent chief minister written a missive to the CJI alleging such wrongdoing by a high court, alleging also that a senior-most judge of the Supreme Court has aided and abetted an enterprise to destabilise and topple the democratically elected government of the state,” writes Upendra Baxi, professor of law, University of Warwick.

The letter also speaks of an “indelible trail” which leads “back to the overt and covert actions of Sri N Chandrababu Naidu through Honourable Sri Justice NV Ramana”.

The chief minister does not seek any specific constitutional remedy; he seems merely to surmise and suggest. Scurrilous, even if politically shrewd, suspicions do not constitute evidence which will hold up in a judicial forum.

READ | After Jagan Reddy letter to CJI: Need free judiciary, it is for a judge to withstand pressure, says Justice Ramana

“Would the CJI then be duty-bound or discretion-laden in yet ordering an in-house investigation on such a contumacious conduct?” asks Baxi.

Baxi labels this conduct as contumacious at least on three counts.

First, the CM made an allegation of “destabilising” his government against a senior justice of the Supreme Court of India without meeting the robust evidentiary threshold for prima facie enquiry.

Second, he named some incumbent justices and the Chief Justice of the High Court as directly or indirectly giving judgments and orders at the instigation of Justice Ramana.

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Third, his principal advisor, Ajeya Kellam, released the letter to the press, even before the CJI had an opportunity to examine the matter.

“Accountability angels may insist on a thorough probe into the allegation about lands in Amaravati purchased by two daughters of the learned justice before its designation as the capital of the new state,” states Baxi. 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram

The chief minister is confident that an enquiry will establish a “prior meeting of minds”, “meticulous round-tripping of transactions and the holdings”, and a “larger scam”.

“At its best, the Court may add its voice for an expeditious CBI investigation. But if the CJI decides on an in-house enquiry, the committee will have to act much before April 23, 2021, the date of his retirement,” advises Baxi.

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