New Delhi: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has come under severe criticism from members of the legal fraternity for launching an “attack” on the state judiciary and Supreme Court judge Justice N.V. Ramana.
In a letter to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) S.A. Bobde Wednesday, Justice Noushad Ali, a former Andhra Pradesh High Court judge, said the “orchestrated allegations” against Justice Ramana were designed to deny him the right to succeed as the CJI.
Justice Ramana is next-in-line to head the top court following incumbent CJI Bobde’s retirement in April next year.
At an unprecedented press conference on 10 October, Reddy’s government had levelled charges of corruption and bias against Justice Ramana and other high court judges. He had also made public a letter written to CJI Bobde on 6 October in which he accused Justice Ramana and former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu of trying to topple his government.
Apart from Justice Ali’s letter, two contempt petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court — one by lawyers G.S. Mani and Pradeep Kumar Yadav, and another by advocate Sushil Kumar Singh — seeking action against Reddy and his removal from the post of chief minister. The first petition, by Mani and Yadav, was filed Wednesday, and Singh’s petition was filed Monday.
The Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association released a statement Thursday expressing its disappointment on Reddy’s letter. “Such a precipitous and irresponsible act is highly improper. It undermines the dignity of the institution and shakes the confidence of people at large,” the statement said.
Two statements were also issued by the Supreme Court Advocates on Records Association (SCORA) and the Delhi High Court Bar Association (DHCBA) Wednesday. The SCORA has noted that it was deeply anguished at the contents of Reddy’s letter and DHCBA said the CM’s actions were highly “contemptuous” and an attempt at “overawing the judiciary”.
‘Attempt to get personal benefit from court’
The statement issued by SCORA Secretary S. Joseph Aristotle reads, “The SCORA condemns the act of the unwanted release of the said letter on 10-10.2020 in a press conference, to be lacking in propriety and not in accord with the high constitutional functionary involved, as it tends to scandalise and breach the independence of judiciary.”
The DHCBA’s statement, signed by its secretary Abhijat, termed the circulation of letter in a public domain as a “dishonest attempt at overawing the independence of judiciary”.
Meanwhile, the two petitions against Reddy said the chief minister as the head of the state is duty-bound to respect the judiciary. Advocates Mani and Yadav have, in a joint petition, sought Reddy’s removal from the post of the chief minister.
“In order to get personal gain or benefit from the court by abusing his power and post as chief minister of Andhra Pradesh State is openly making false, vague, scandalised remarks and political allegations” against a sitting judge of the apex court “only to tarnish the image of judiciary in public mind,” read their petition.
The second petition by Singh sought an order to bar Reddy from making public statements against the judiciary and holding press conferences to malign the judicial institution.
Jagan is an accused in 31 cases
In his letter to CJI Bobde, Justice Ali has emphasised that Reddy’s letter was a “comeback” to Justice Ramana’s 16 September order to expedite the trial of cases against sitting and former lawmakers.
“The letter is liable to be treated as scandalising the court, attracting appropriate action,” Ali’s letter said.
He further pointed out that Reddy was an accused in as many as 31 cases, of which 11 are being investigated by the CBI and seven by the Enforcement Directorate.
Referring to the cases against Reddy in the Andhra Pradesh High Court, Justice Ali pointed out that the matters were still pending consideration on the judiciary’s side, therefore, it was improper to insist they be examined by the administrative side.
Meanwhile, advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, on whose petition Justice Ramana’s bench had ordered speedy trial of cases against politicians, also wrote to the CJI Wednesday asking for a “full court meeting” to discuss the issue.
“The letter by Reddy and his subsequent press conference is a blatant attempt to shake the confidence of the public at large in the judiciary,” Upadhyay wrote. According to him, the letter was released in public domain not only to derail Upadhyay’s case but also to “intimidate judicial proceedings” against Reddy.
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