Amaravati: The on-going tussle between the Government of Andhra Pradesh headed by Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy with the judiciary took a curious turn when the AP High Court Judge Justice J. Rakesh Kumar Wednesday raised serious questions on transparency in the Supreme Court’s Collegium transfers.
On December 14 the SC’s Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde shifted AP High Court Chief Justice Jitendra Kumar Maheswari to Sikkim High Court and Telangana High Court Chief Justice R. Chouhan to Uttarakhand High Court at a time when they were hearing cases pending against Jagan Reddy.
The high court bench of Justice Rakesh Kumar and Justice D. Ramesh sought to link the transfer of the Chief Justices with the Jagan’s controversial letter which he had mailed to the CJI with serious charges of corruption and misconduct against Justice Maheswari and five of his subordinate judges.
Dismissing a recusal petition of the AP government in connection with the sale of assets on behalf of the state-owned Mission Build AP, Justice Rakesh Kumar passed an order in which he held that the “contemptuous” letter and the subsequent shifting of the Chief Justices wittingly or unwittingly helped Jagan Reddy, who is involved in more than 30 criminal cases, gain an “undue advantage”. Jagan Mohan Reddy has thereby succeeded in letting people draw an inference as if after his so-called letter the two CJs were transferred which has an adverse bearing on the independent judiciary, the Justice said.
The petition prayed for recusal of Justice Rakesh Kumar from the hearing of the case, expressing doubts over his objectivity.
The justice said he was not raising any questions at the collegium’s transfer proposals but observed that transfer of High Court Judges or its Chief Justice “may reflect some transparency.”
Justice Rakesh Kumar saw a “larger conspiracy” in the attack by Jagan Reddy and his supporters with a mala fide intention to malign senior judges through social media platforms and the other means. “It was due to the result of the larger conspiracy the CBI is required to take appropriate action against such culprits irrespective of the post and position,” he ruled, asking the central probe agency to accomplish the task within eight weeks since the receipt of a copy of his order.
The transfer of the CJs, heading various benches constituted to hear several cases pending against the Chief Minister, may result in delaying the process, the Justice said.
Cops buckling under pressure
In a random Google search, Justice Rakesh Kumar said he had found the CM, in a case of gross misuse of his power and position, got the state police to file closure reports in as many as six-seven criminal cases in which he was accused in the court. The CM Jaganmohan Reddy till September 2020 was accused in more than 30 cases which included 11 registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and six filed by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with charges of money laundering. Special courts were set up in Hyderabad to speed up the trial of criminal cases pending against several public servants, including Jagan Reddy. “Surprisingly, though, cases (foisted against Reddy) are pending since 2011 in none of them charges have been framed till the day, Justice Rakesh Kumar observed, asking “Is it not a mockery with the system?”.
In his critical remarks, the Justice observed, “Till the publication of (the) letter on October 6 of the Honourable Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh I was not having much information about him. But, immediately thereafter, I became curious to know about him. Subsequently, I was told that if I go on-site Google and type only Khaidi No.6093 I can get much information. Accordingly, I did the same thing and thereafter I got very disturbing information.” He even furnished extracts with the number of criminal cases and their nature involving Jagan Reddy from his Google search.