The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a batch of petitions seeking action against Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy for making “scandalising” allegations about a sitting judge of the top court, Justice NV Ramana, Bar and Bench reported.
In a letter, addressed to Chief Justice SA Bobde on October 6, Reddy had alleged that Ramana, who is the Supreme Court’s second-most senior judge, had been influencing the hearings 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”.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy refused to grant liberty to the petitioners for intervening in the matter. “You pick up something from the newspaper and file whatever you want,” the bench said. “This is not how this is done. If 100 people want to assist, then how can we allow 100 people to intervene? This will become an endless exercise.”
However, a petition filed by advocate Sunil Kumar Singh, was tagged with the pending appeal filed by the Andhra Pradesh government against the High Court restraining the police from investigating case related to alleged irregularities in land deals in Amaravati, according to The Indian Express. Singh’s plea sought directions to restrain Reddy from making such public statements about the Supreme Court, or its judges.
Besides Singh, the court was hearing two more separate pleas filed by advocates GS Mani, Pradeep Kumar Yadav and non-governmental organisation Anti-Corruption Council of India Trust.
The petitioners had submitted that the allegations levelled by Reddy against Justice Ramana are baseless. They highlighted that Reddy is facing over 20 criminal cases himself, and the allegations made by him were an attempt to “tarnish the reputation of the Court for personal gain and motive”.
Mani, Yadav, and the Anti-Corruption Council of India Trust also sought a judicial inquiry by an internal committee headed by sitting or retired judges of the Supreme Court or any other authority including, the Central Bureau of Investigation, into the allegations raised by the Andhra Pradesh chief minister against Ramana.
During the hearing on Tuesday, the Supreme Court said the plea filed by Mani seeking direction for removal of Reddy from the post of chief minister for his remarks was “not maintainable”, according to The Indian Express.
On the demand for a CBI inquiry, the court said, according to the newspaper: “A statement was undoubtedly made and it’s in public domain. What is there to probe into the statements? What will the CBI or any retired High court judge enquire in it? The issue of making statements is already being dealt by a different bench and it has lifted the gag order placed by the High Court. Now what remains.”
Notably, Supreme Court lawyer and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay had also written to Attorney General KK Venugopal to initiate proceedings for criminal contempt against Reddy for making statements against Justice Ramana and making them public. However, Venugopal had declined his consent on the matter.
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.