A Supreme Court lawyer and Bharatiya Janata Party leader on Sunday wrote to Attorney General of India KK Venugopal, seeking his consent to initiate contempt proceedings against Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and his principal advisor Ajeya Kallam for making allegations about a sitting Supreme Court judge, PTI reported.
In a letter addressed to Chief Justice SA Bobde on October 6, Reddy had alleged that Supreme Court’s second-most senior judge NV Ramana had been influencing the sittings of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, including the roster of a few judges. Reddy also cited instances of how cases important to the Opposition Telugu Desam Party were “allocated to a few judges”.
BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay said the chief minister’s letter “scandalises” the authority of both the Supreme Court and the High Court. He added that it interferes with the judicial proceedings and the administration of justice.
“Even worse, if this kind of precedent were allowed, political leaders would start making reckless allegations against judges who do not decide cases in their favour and this trend would soon spell the death knell of an independent judiciary.”— Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay
Upadhyay sought consent from Venugopal under Section 15(1)(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 read with Rule 3 of the Rules to Regulate Proceedings for Contempt of the Supreme Court, 1975, to initiate action against Reddy.
The BJP leader also told the attorney general that the Andhra Pradesh chief minister is himself an accused in at least 31 cases concerning the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, which is pending before the Special Court in Telangana, according to Bar and Bench.
“He has been granted bail and continues to discharge his duties as a public servant while these trials are on,” Upadhyay wrote.
The advocate said no contempt proceedings have been initiated against Reddy and Kallam since the letter was put out in the public domain on October 10.
“The audacious assault by the chief minister and Kallam on the judiciary of the country is without precedent. The timing of the letter, the contents of the same, the rush to spill it to the public while the matter was pending with the Chief Justice and the separate statement read out by Kellam make it manifestly clear that this was done to interfere with the course of justice and lower the authority of the court.”— Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay
The BJP leader said Kellam being a senior Indian Administrative Service officer should have known better about the consequences of releasing Reddy’s letter to the media. “He also purported that the contents of the statement he read out [not the letter] reflect the views of the state of Andhra Pradesh,” Upadhyay added.
Reddy vs Ramana
Reddy’s letter was released after a bench headed by Ramana ordered proceedings against the chief minister in a disproportionate assets case. The bench was hearing a petition seeking fast-tracking of pending criminal cases against sitting and former lawmakers. On October 10, the very next day after the order was passed, the letter, dated October 6, was made public by Reddy’s principal advisor.
Soon after, the Andhra Pradesh High Court ordered an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into allegedly defamatory social media posts on judgements of the court by members of Reddy’s party. The order, however, did not mention the letter.
Protests were launched by Bar Associations and former judges against Reddy for levelling such allegations against the top court judge in an “irresponsible manner”. The Supreme Court Bar Association also passed a resolution on October 16 condemning the letter. However, the body’s President Dushyant Dave has expressed his dissent against the resolution.
On October 17, Justice NV Ramana had said that judges should be “fearless in their decisions to withstand all pressures and odds” after the controversy. Ramana, next in line to become the chief justice of India, added that the greatest strength of the judiciary was the faith of the people in it.