Hyderabad: The Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy government will move the Supreme Court against the high court gag order in the Amaravati land deals case, and also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to highlight its concerns, ruling party MPs and a government advisor said.
The comments came after Andhra Chief Justice J.K. Maheshwari issued a gag order on reporting the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB)’s FIR against a formal legal officer and few others in relation to alleged irregularities in land purchases in Amaravati. The city was being developed as the state capital by the previous N. Chandrababu Naidu government.
Calling the court’s move unprecedented, Andhra Pradesh government advisor on public affairs, Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy Wednesday said the state will challenge the HC order in the Supreme Court.
The ruling party MPs, who have raised the issue in both the Houses, called the order “not impartial” and “judicial overreach”.
“We will take this issue up to the prime minister, president and will keep raising this issue in the Parliament so that people will know what’s happening. We’re not saying anything to the courts or questioning them, it is just a few people in the judicial system,” Lok Sabha MP P.V. Midhun Reddy said outside the Parliament Thursday.
Midhun added that the law is the same for everyone — from a prime minister to a common man.
Rajya Sabha MP V. Vijayasai Reddy said the decision was “quite unusual and legally questionable”. He added that the Centre should intervene into this issue.
“The state is suffering not only financially but also judicially. In Andhra Pradesh, it is the judiciary which is issuing the gag orders and it is not impartial. It needs to stop,” Reddy said in the Rajya Sabha Thursday.
What the case is
Since it came to power in 2019, the ruling party YSRCP has been alleging blatant misuse of power under Naidu’s regime and several irregularities related to land purchases and government contracts, among others.
Early Tuesday, the Guntur Police filed the ACB’s FIR against a former legal officer and several persons in relation to the alleged land scam in the then capital Amaravati.
However, the Andhra Pradesh High Court issued a gag order by evening.
The court’s move came after the former legal officer filed a plea seeking relief and a gag order, saying the ACB was targeting him with mala fide intentions and there was a political angle to the issue. Senior lawyers Mukul Rohatgi and Shyam Divan represented the ex-officer. It also granted a stay on the investigation.
On Wednesday, the court also issued orders staying all further proceedings pertaining to the scams being investigated by the state government’s Special Investigation Team (SIT).
The Jagan Reddy government had formed the 10-member SIT to probe these alleged irregularities.
Andhra MPs question the order
Speaking in the Parliament on the same day, Midhun Reddy said, “The High Court has passed a gag order and issued a stay on the SIT… All this is just because a former legal officer and a judge’s kin has been accused in the case.”
Midhun also demanded a CBI probe into what the ruling party believes is a 4000-acre land scandal.
Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy questioned the timing and haste in issuing the gag order at a press meet in Andhra Pradesh. He asked if there was any objectivity in the court’s order, pointing out that the FIR was filed by an agency and did not contain anything that violated the privacy of the people named in it.
“The fairness and equality that our courts are known for comes under scrutiny. Instead of dwelling on whether a wrong has been committed or not, the court accepted the petitioner’s contention that the FIR was politically motivated and borne out of revenge,” he said.
A day later, Vijayasai Reddy too raised questions on the order as he spoke outside the Parliament, saying it was a case of “judicial overreach”.
The row has broken out over a year after Andhra Chief Minister Jagan Reddy constituted a cabinet sub-committee to review all the key decisions made by the previous government.
The panel in its report indicated fraud and irregularities in the Amaravati capital project. The SIT took over the case from there.
The Crime Investigation Department also filed cases after receiving complaints related to illegal land dealings in Amaravati. The ACB too joined the fray over complaints that people in higher positions in the Naidu government had misused their power to fix the location of the capital, and had financially benefited by purchasing lands in that region.
Meanwhile, CM Jagan Reddy, who has maintained that Amaravati was a “real estate project” to benefit a section in Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP), announced his decision to create three capitals in the state.
Over the last year, the SIT and CID also made a few arrests, including that of a revenue official, besides filing multiple FIRs. The CID also booked former ministers P. Pulla Rao and P. Narayana in connection with the land deals case.
However, opposition TDP has consistently denied these charges, calling the Jagan government vindictive and accusing it of political vendetta.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.