ATTORNEY GENERAL K K Venugopal has declined a request to reconsider his decision refusing consent to initiate contempt proceedings against Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jaganmohan Reddy and his Principal Advisor Ajeya Kallam over Reddy’s letter to Chief Justice of India S A Bobde levelling various allegations against Supreme Court Justice N V Ramana and AP High Court judges.
Venugopal said, however, that it is “open to the Supreme Court to take up the matter of contempt suo motu as provided by the Contempt of Courts Act” since “the very crux of the alleged contempt lies in the contents of the letter written by” Reddy to the CJI.
The AG conveyed his decision in a letter sent Saturday to Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay who had sought the consent. “Given that the Chief Justice of India is seized of the matter, it would not be appropriate for me to grant consent and preclude the determination of the Chief Justice of India on the matter,” the AG wrote.
He also said in the letter that “contempt is a matter between Court and conternnor, and no person as of right can insist upon the initiation of contempt proceedings”.
Venugopal said as Attorney General, he is “required to exercise statutorily conferred discretion not only to determine whether particular statements or conduct would be prima facie contumacious, but also as to examine if it would be in larger public interest to place the matter found contumacious before the Supreme Court by way of a contempt petition”.
The AG said he had watched the video of the press conference by Kallam on October 10, when the letter was released to the media. “I find that nothing extra was said other than what was already there in the letter, which was addressed to the Chief Justice. The letter released to the press and enclosed in your original request for consent was therefore the subject matter of the contempt. Nowhere, is the letter… marked confidential. In other words, the letter cannot be described as a private missive. It was widely being reported by the press,” he said.
Venugopal said that “hence there is no reason for me to change my mind”. But the AG wrote that his rejection “does not preclude” Upadhyay “from bringing these facts to the notice of” the Supreme Court “with a prayer for initiation of suo motu action”.
Upadhyay had earlier approached the AG seeking permission to initiate contempt, stating that Reddy’s October 6 letter and its subsequent release to the media by Kallam “scandalise the authority of the Supreme Court and the High Court as well as interfering with the course of judicial proceedings and the administration of justice”.
The AG had turned down Upadhyay’s request on November 2 following which the lawyer had submitted a fresh request. In 2016, the lawyer had filed a PIL seeking the setting up of special courts to decide cases involving legislators within one year and debar those convicted from contesting elections for life.
Hearing this petition on September 16, a bench headed by Justice Ramana had asked High Court Chief Justices to constitute a special bench to monitor the progress of trial of criminal cases against sitting and former legislators and to “forthwith” list all such cases which have been stayed and decide whether the stay should continue or not.
It was after this order that proceedings in a disproportionate assets case against Reddy resumed in a CBI Special Court in Hyderabad on October 9. The next day, Kallam made public the Chief Minister’s letter to the CJI.
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