3 possible actions of CJI on Jagan's letter
The question before people in general is whether an accused in dozens of cases file a complaint against the Judge of High Court and Supreme Court? Is there a prohibition of such complaints?
- It is not important to discuss the names of complaining and complained. For complaining one cannot condemn Jaganmohan Reddy, and because of his complaint, one cannot assume that Justice N V Ramana is wrong. To complain against is the basic right of every citizen.
- To consider the complaint who ever has given or against whom so ever it was given, is the legitimate duty of appropriate authority.
- Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan mohan Reddy made several allegations against sitting judge of Supreme Court and some Judges of AP High Court that former was influencing and the later were got influenced unduly influencing, that affected some of his decisions as an elected Chief Minister.
- More than complaining, putting all the allegations with detailed annexures in public domain raised several questions of propriety and possibility of contempt action.
- Basis of criticism against this complaining Chief Minister Jaganmohan Reddy is that he has more than dozen criminal charges pending to be tried.
- The complaint was against No.2 Judge, Justice N V Ramana. Point to be noted is that he is monitoring speedy trial of such cases against political leaders, some of them are against Jaganmohan Reddy.
- Whether AP Chief Minister's scathing letter of complaint to the Chief Justice of India is an 'attack' or 'declaration of war' against the judiciary.
- The AP CM's letter is very serious, sensational, its consequences could be quite unusual or extraordinary.
- The action of Jaganmohan Reddy can be classified as primarily a complaint with a strong suspicion of undue influence.
- The CM has every right and authority like any citizen to file a complaint in such circumstances. As a party to dispute, who does not get justice or feels strongly that he did not get justice, he has a right to complain.
- The allegation is not just against the Supreme Court judge but also against specifically named judges of AP High Court. This assumes serious propositions, that is the reason for the serious debate that is going on all over the country.
Criticism and allegation
- While Prashant Bhushan made a criticism on the role of judiciary and democracy, Jagan made an allegation.
- Prashant's comments were considered contemptuous. Whether complaining or putting it in public domain is contempt? Or is it defamatory? It depends upon strength of evidence he might advance.
- Jaganmohan Reddy in his eight-page letter initially expresses his belief in Constitutional institutions including judiciary and then begins his 'unpleasant duty' to place on record the complaint to the Chief Justice of India.
- In paragraph (a) he exposed malfeasances and misfeasance of Chandrababu Naidu leading to the amassing huge wealth during his rule between 2014-19. Jagan stated he believed that such a course of disapproval of Naidu's misdeeds was perfectly within the Constitutional authority vested in an elected Government.
AP govt asks CBI to probe Naidu's assets
- The letter explains that the Committee headed by him prima facie found that various individuals and bodies corporate closely associated with Chandrababu Naidu and his government purchased considerable extent of land (approximately in the order of 4000 acres) by adopting various illegal means.
- He stated that the report was such committee was placed before the Legislative Assembly, which opined deeper enquiry was needed into the allegations, and the government forwarded the report to Union of India seeking CBI investigation into it.
- Jaganmohan Reddy explained that though his Government was competent enough to take up appropriate action on these illegalities, he preferred inquiry by a body over which he would not have administrative control, to avoid the criticism of political vendetta.
- The paragraphs from (a) to (c) of CM's letter reflect no problem or illegality at all. It was a right move of the CM to hand over the investigation into the acts of former Chief Minister and leader of opposition to the CBI instead of retaining it with his own police administration.
- In paragraph (d), the CM stated: "it is my painful duty to place on record that in the course of enquiry by the Cabinet Sub-Committee and also during the course of preliminary investigation conducted by the Anti-Corruption Bureau in a complaint, it came to light that two daughters of Honourable Sri Justice N V Ramana, a sitting Judge of Supreme Court and some of his close associates and relatives are beneficiaries of various questionable transactions of land within the area which came to be eventually notified as a location of the new capital proposed by Sri Chandrababu Naidu.
- The said transactions took place in the interregnum period between Mr Chandrababu Naidu's swearing in as CM of AP and the public announcement of location of the new capital. From the records it appears that a few transactions were routed through Mr Dammalapati Srinivas who at the relevant point of time was functioning as Additional Advocate General of AP.
- It is a notorious fact that said Mr Srinivas is too closely associated with Sri Justice N V Ramana and N Chandrababu Naidu with whose blessings he eventually became the Advocate General of Andhra Pradesh".
- The main part of the complaint is explained in this paragraph: "Around January 2020, it was in the public domain that high functionaries of various institutions, have purchased lands in Amaravati.
- A series of Writ Petitions were filed since January 2020 challenging the Bills passed by the Assembly providing for three capitals and one of the key points discussed in the Assembly, was the stake of vested interests in Amaravati capital and agencies reports indicated that the protests organized in this regard, were funded and organized by such vested individuals. Nearly 30 PILs were got filed at various stages of legitimate government functioning, impleading the Chief Minister as party respondent, with the choicest of abuses".
- Main allegation is that the SC Judge is influencing the AP High Court's judges to give pro-TDP orders. The letter pointed out three aspects in support of his allegation-
- The course of influence was in the areas of:
- 1) Roster for sitting of the Honourable Judges, whereby important matters of policy and protection for Chandrababu Naidu's interests were posted before a few Honourable Judges (names given),
- 2) The entertaining of PILs lowering the threshold for acceptance of PILs by the High Court on the judicial side,
- 3) Some specific orders passed by the Honourable Court. Roster for sitting of benches and taking up matters is power with the Chief Justice, which was point of criticism of four SC judges who revolted against Chief Justice of India.
- But how can anybody say that someone from Delhi has influenced constituting the benches and allocating the matters? Enclosures to letter contain opinion on candidates proposed to be elevated as judges of High Court from Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and Justice N V Ramana, senior member of Collegium, which were verbatim same, though given separately. This is quoted to establish proximity between the two. Is that enough to prove the continued proximity between former CM and SC Judge?
- Another set of enclosures are claimed to be meant for media, which listed the orders of High Court judges that were allegedly given to protect the interests of Telugu Desam leaders. The orders of HC to stay the investigation into deaths in Ramesh Hospital, insider trading allegations and gag order on media from reporting the contents of FIR were criticised as unreasonable and biased.
Confusion and uncertainty
- The controversy kicked off by the Jagan government quoting orders against the government allegedly supporting interests of opposition TDP, will have a direct impact on functioning of the High Court in Andhra Pradesh.
- Whether the High Court benches should go ahead with hearing of the cases or not? Or should the AP HC look to Supreme Court for the guidance? Dozens of petitions which are in different stages of hearing will depend upon the response to the Chief Justice of India.
- An atmosphere of uncertainty and confusion is prevailing over the adjudication of the cases in Andhra Pradesh. The nation looks to CJI to clear this confusion by considering Jagan's complaint. It could be rejected as without substance, or considered if there is substance, and be sent to Parliament, if the allegation is substantial and serious enough to warrant impeachment.