New Delhi: The Andhra Pradesh government told the Supreme Court Monday that rebel YSR Congress MP Raghu Rama Krishnam Raju, Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu and two Telugu news channels were involved in a conspiracy to overthrow the democratically-elected government in the state.
In an affidavit in the top court, the state government submitted WhatsApp conversations that Raju had with owners of TV5 News and ABN Andhra Jyoti, and Naidu, on the MP’s statements against the Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government. It also cited the alleged favours that Raju extended to media houses to air his controversial speeches.
Raju had won the 2019 Lok Sabha election from Narsapuram constituency on the YSR Congress Party ticket. However, he fell out with the party soon after and began publicly attacking CM Reddy and the party on their decisions.
The state government charged Raju with sedition for his statements, and the two TV channels for airing them.
The affidavit was submitted in response to two separate petitions filed by TV5 News and ABN Andhra Jyoti, which sought contempt action against the state.
They said the FIRs were an affront to the earlier SC direction to stop prosecution and arrest of citizens who voiced their grievances on social media amid the pandemic.
Strongly opposing the petitions, the Andhra Pradesh government, however, said the two media houses did not play the role of independent media, but that of an “active participant in a well-designed conspiracy”.
The state also alleged that there was evidence of financial transactions between Raju and the TV channels, which was part of a larger conspiracy to incite people and create disaffection against the state executive.
The speeches were premeditated, coordinated and were aired after detailed discussions between Raju, the TV channels and TDP members, including Naidu, said the Andhra Pradesh government.
On 31 May, the SC had stopped the state police from taking coercive action against the channels, with a remark that it was time the top court defined the limits of sedition.
Also read: SC grants bail to rebel YSR Congress MP K Raju in sedition case lodged by Andhra Police
WhatsApp conversations and compliments
In its 224-page affidavit, Andhra Pradesh has annexed 71 pages of WhatsApp chats that Raju had with journalists and owners of the two channels, Naidu and TDP Vice-President Nara Lokesh.
The conversations were related to Raju’s discussions over filing a petition against the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister for an alleged communal remark, the case registered against the rebel MP and his appeal to voters to vote for the party that does not offer money.
In one of the conversations between Raju and a TV journalist, the latter asked him to urgently speak on Tirupati elections, preferably talk about the need to cancel them. In another one, Raju asked the journalist to use his name in the title of a news episode to get more views.
Some of the other conversations referred in the state affidavit are complimentary messages that Raju received from journalists for his shows.
The messages praised Raju for his “superhit interviews”, creating a “furore on social media” and his pressers for “laceratingly attacking the CM without any fear”.
Raju was even complimented for one of his online interviews that garnered more than 10,000 views.
According to the government, these conversations “reflected a meeting of minds and a continuously evolving scheme hatched at multiple instances”.
“The conspiracy involved crafting of speeches or interviews that were aimed at inciting one group, religious caste against another,” the affidavit claimed.
‘TV channels were not doing their duty’
Casting aspersions on the role of the two channels, the state alleged that “multiple financial transactions” took place between Raju and employees of the channels.
The MP also helped them with favours while using the channels for his political propaganda, it added.
The TV channels were “not doing their duty in telecasting the press conferences but were getting incentivised for the dissemination of the material for political or financial reasons with a clear conspiracy to create enmity between social groups”, the government affidavit said.
Quoting a 1986 SC judgment, the state further argued that it was not necessary that the accused himself should author the seditious material or should have actually attempted hatred.
Distribution or circulation of seditious material may also be sufficient, it said.
The right to life and dignity cannot be sacrificed in the name of freedom of speech, which cannot be permitted to spread hatred and create disaffection, the state said.
Also read: Jagan govt says sedition case against Andhra MP justified, claims his speeches stoked unrest