Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s ongoing tiff with the judiciary has taken a dramatic turn, with a series of allegations against a sitting senior Supreme Court judge.
Reddy listed the allegations against the apex court judge and several high court judges in a letter to the sitting Supreme Court Chief Justice SA Bobde. The letter dated October 6, was released to the media in the coastal Andhra city of Vijayawada on Saturday (October 10) by Ajay Kallam, a retired IAS officer and principal advisor to the chief minister.
This is perhaps the first time in the history of the judiciary that a chief minister has accused a senior Supreme Court judge of political bias, corruption and trying to influence the judgements of a high court.
The move comes close on the heels of Jagan meeting the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi.
The crux of the allegations against the Supreme Court judge is that he has close affinity with the former chief minister and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N Chandrababu Naidu and has “played a crucial role in swaying judicial appointments” in the state courts.
The strongly-worded letter claimed that the judge had influenced the high court to swing decisions in favour of TDP leaders who are facing multiple corruption charges.
“I am making this statement with utmost responsibility. I may only bring it to your notice that a former judge of the honourable Supreme Court, Justice Chelameswar, placed this fact on record with evidence,” Jagan said.
He cited instances of how Naidu was allegedly scuttling the investigations, launched by the YSR Congress government into the illegal activities of his party leaders, by using his “cohorts” in the state judiciary.
Jagan’s note alleged that the apex court judge helped the Naidu regime handpick six of the 11 members in a panel from the high court bar and promoted them as acting judges.
The judge “has been influencing the sittings of the High Court including the roster of a few Honourable Judges and instances of how matters important to Telugu Desam Party have been allocated to a few Judges…,” the letter said.
Ever since the YSR Congress Party gained power in May 2019 and ordered an inquiry into all the deals made by the regime of Chandrababu Naidu from June 2014 to May 2019, the judge started influencing the course of administration of justice in the state, he said.
It must be pointed out that a majority of TDP leaders and their supporters who had purchased lands in and around Amaravati are coming under scrutiny now for their land deals. The Vijayawada-Guntur region has been a traditional stronghold of the TDP.
A cabinet sub-committee which probed the charges of “insider trading” by the then TDP government had found several irregularities, including fraudulent means of grabbing assigned and government land and surrendering it for land pooling to get the benefits announced by the government.
The Chief Minister alleged that investigations into land dealings by former state Advocate General Dammalapati Srinivas were stayed by the High Court though an FIR was registered against him by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
“The complaint of cheating and crime investigation is stayed on the ground that the money involved in the transaction is repaid by the accused. Every judicial precedent and elementary principle of jurisprudence is violated by such orders, with a view to protect the interests of TDP members,’’ the CM stated in his eight-page letter.
On September 15, the High Court restrained the media from reporting details of the FIR filed by the Anti-Corruption Bureau against the former Advocate General regarding land purchase in Amaravati.
While sources in the YSR Congress Party say that the letter was ‘delivered” to the office of the Supreme Court Chief Justice on October 8, there is no confirmation from the registrar of the apex court regarding the receipt of the letter.
Till now, there is no reaction from the judge named in Jagan’s letter who is at the centre of the storm nor has there been any word from the TDP leadership.
String of legal setbacks
During the last one year, the courts have issued over 50 orders that went against the decisions taken by the Jagan Mohan Reddy government.
The decisions put on hold by the High Court include shifting the capital out of Amaravati, abolition of the AP Legislative Council and the removal of AP State Election Commission N Ramesh Kumar.
The orders cancelling some of the key infrastructure projects of the previous TDP regime have also been overturned by the courts.
More importantly, the chief minister’s flagship agenda of trifurcation of the capital ran into rough weather, with the high court ordering status quo. This has put a brake on the government’s ambitious plans to shift the executive capital to Visakhapatnam at the earliest and showcase the coastal Andhra city as a potential investment destination.
On May 29, the High Court struck down an ordinance to remove the state election commissioner (SEC), Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar, by amending the AP Panchayat Raj Act to reduce the term of the SEC from five to three years.
The court also struck down an order increasing the quota for OBCs in the local bodies from 27% to 34%. The HC had also ordered a CBI inquiry into the suspension and alleged persecution of Dr K Sudhakar, a doctor from Visakhapatnam who had accused the government of not providing all medical professionals with PPEs.
In another embarrassment to the government, the court had ordered reinstatement of senior IPS officer AB Venkateswara Rao, suspended on suspicion of leaking critical intelligence information to an Israeli defence manufacturer.