Updated: October 11, 2020 9:19:30 am
In an unprecedented move, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy has written to Chief Justice of India S A Bobde, alleging that Justice N V Ramana — next in line to be the CJI — “has been influencing the sittings of the (Andhra Pradesh) High Court including the roster of a few Honourable Judges”.
The Chief Minister’s eight-page letter refers to Justice Ramana’s alleged “proximity” to TDP leader and former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, and an Anti-Corruption Bureau investigation into “questionable transactions of land” involving two daughters of Justice Ramana and others in Amaravati, before it was declared the site for the new capital of the state.
Dated October 6, the letter was released to the media in Hyderabad Saturday evening by Ajeya Kallam, Principal Advisor to the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister.
The Sunday Express reached out to the Secretary General of the Supreme Court for comment, but there was no response.
Last month, Justice Ramana, speaking at the launch of a book by former Supreme Court judge Justice R Banumathi, said: “As judges are self-restrained from speaking out in their own defence, they are now being construed as soft targets for criticism. This issue is further complicated by the proliferation of social media and technology, wherein judges are becoming victims of juicy gossip and slanderous social-media posts.”
In his letter, the Chief Minister has mentioned “instances of how matters important to Telugu Desam Party have been allocated to a few Honourable Judges”, and has detailed this in an annexure.
The letter states “ever since the YSR Congress Party gained power in May 2019 and ordered enquiry into all the deals made by the regime of N Chandrababu Naidu from June 2014 to May 2019, Justice N V Ramana started influencing the course of administration of justice in the state”.
The Chief Minister alleged that investigations into land dealings by former state Advocate General Dammalapati Srinivas were stayed by the High Court though an FIR was registered against him by the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
“The complaint of cheating and crime investigation is stayed on the ground that the money involved in the transaction is repaid by the accused. Every judicial precedent and elementary principle of jurisprudence is violated by such orders, with a view to protect the interests of TDP members,’’ the CM stated in his letter.
On September 15, the High Court restrained the media from reporting details of the FIR filed by the Anti-Corruption Bureau against the former Advocate General regarding land purchase in Amaravati.
“By way of interim relief, it is directed that no coercive steps shall be taken in furtherance to (the FIR) which has been registered after filing of this writ petition against any of the accused. The enquiry, investigation is also stayed. It is further directed that the news in regard to (the FIR, details withheld as per court order) … shall not be made public in any electronic, print or social media, to foist the office of a former Advocate General and also with respect to the other alleged accused persons,’’ said the order by Chief Justice J K Maheshwari.
The Chief Minister’s letter refers to this order of the High Court: “While the Supreme Court has been steadfast in ensuring no prior-restraint on publication by media, a gag order on the media is passed.”
He has urged the CJI to “consider initiating such steps as may be considered fit and proper, to ensure that the State judiciary’s neutrality is maintained”.
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