On October 6th, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy wrote a letter to Chief Justice of India (CIJ) S A Bobde alleging the malfunctioning of the Judges in High Court of his state and the influence of a sitting Supreme Court Judge, Justice N V Ramana who is next-in-line to become the CJI in 2021.
Perhaps, this is the first time in history that a chief minister or executive did a press conference to accuse the functioning of an independent judiciary in India. The act has been condemned by many.
What are the allegations?
The allegations are primarily of corruption against the previous Andhra Pradesh government by Telegu Desan Party (TDP) and the involvement of Supreme Court Judge Justice N V Ramana in favouring the TDP government to gain benefits. Andhra Pradesh CM mentions in detail on how the issues regarding TDP Government’s corruption is given to few judges in the high court.
It also indicates that the Supreme Court Judge has been influencing the administrative justice of Andhra Pradesh since the Reddy government came into power.
In September, a gag order (legal order by a court restricting information or comment from being made public) was passed in the case registered by the former advocate general of Andhra Pradesh Dammalapati Srinivas over Amravati land allotment, and High Court judge stayed the case when FIR was filed against him by Anti-Corruption Bureau.
CM concerning the publication of FIR in his letter says ” While the Supreme Court has been steadfast in ensuring no prior-restraint on publication by media, a gag order on the media is passed.”
Reactions and condemnations :
The Delhi High Court Bar Association (DHCBA) condemned by concluding that the allegations against the Supreme Court in this manner amounted to contempt of court and called Justice N V Ramana as “one of the most virtuous judges with the highest level of integrity.”
Delhi High Court Bar Association passed this unanimous resolution in the Jagan Reddy letter to the CJI matter.
"circulation of the letter in public domain is clearly a dishonest attempt at overawing the independence of judiciary and tantamount to contempt" pic.twitter.com/tdfq0a3eLJ
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) October 14, 2020
Similarly, the Supreme Court Advocates-On-Record Association (SCAORA) in its e-meet passed a resolution condemning the letter of the CM. It released a press letter saying that “it tends to scandalise and breach the independence of the judiciary.”
Resolution by the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association: pic.twitter.com/uwxb6WCXBA
— N. Ram (@nramind) April 22, 2019
Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association (SCWLA) also slammed the letter of CM in its press release, which states “such a precipitous and irresponsible act is highly improper.”
Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association condemns letter written by Andhra CM YS Jaganmohan Reddy to CJI SA Bobde making allegations against Justice NV Ramana. SCWLA says such "precipitous and irresponsible act is highly improper."#SupremeCourt@ysjagan pic.twitter.com/sKNrxpJzJb
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) October 15, 2020
It should be seen that the letter could just be directed to CJI, instead of public release which many believe to be uncalled for as it not only taints the image of a judge but the faith of the people in the democracy.
It is interesting to see that there are numerous cases against the present CM Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy concerning disproportionate assets, embezzlement, defamation, corruption, others, and he was arrested and released in 2012.
Thus, many believe it is a political strategy of the Government to tarnish and bring the judiciary into the political chaos of Andhra Pradesh.
Others believe that judiciary should go through reforms, the judicial structure and proceedings shouldn’t be questioned, but the conduct of judge is quite a criterion as judges are nothing but humans and thus are no exceptions from making mistakes.
Justice N V Ramana stance:
On Saturday, October 17th, at a condolence meeting for former Supreme Court judge Justice A R Lakshmanan, Justice N V Ramana said: “it is an important quality for a judge to withstand all pressures and odds and to stand up bravely against all obstacles and that a vibrant and independent judiciary is required in the current times.”
He referred to the Hindu God Rama and said “So people worship Rama not because of the success in his life, but for the gracefulness with which he conducted the most difficult moments. That is what is valued; that is the highest value in one’s life.”
Nothing he said was directly aimed at CM’s publicised letter; however, Justice Ramana answered in his subtle manner.
The allegations were made public on October 10th, irrespective of their truth, and it must be dealt with publicly. Thus, the judiciary and CJI shouldn’t delay with a reply or action in the matter to restore the public faith in the judicial institution.