As center transfers two chief justices, outgoing AP HC judge’s order lifts shady cases

On Thursday, the Center notified the appointment of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh, Jitendra Kumar Maheshwari, as Chief Justice of the High Court of Sikkim, and the Chief Justice of the High Court of Sikkim, Arup Kumar Goswami, as Chief Justice of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh.

Although both of these appointments are the result of recommendations from the Supreme Court Panel on December 14, they coincide with a controversial order passed Wednesday by Andhra Pradesh High Court Judge Rakesh Kumar, who is retiring Thursday. The coincidence is not without significance, for in his order, Justice Rakesh Kumar deplores not only the role of the Supreme Court College in acquiescing to the executive, but the inability of the judges of the upper magistracy – at the edge of their retirement – to resist overtures from the executive in order to secure the post-retirement sinecures.

Judge Rakesh Kumar’s order was tied to his refusal to refrain from hearing a challenge to the public land auction. The challenge plea was offered by the state government on the grounds that Judge Kumar could have disqualified himself because of his alleged submissions against the state government during the hearing of another case.

Although Judge Kumar asked the state government council to prepare to explain why the court could not find the state’s constitutional machinery to fail, it was in another case, which was duly suspended by the Supreme Court. Judge Kumar, however, denied having said in that case that there was a breakdown of the constitutional machinery in the state and that the bench would hand administration over to the Center, as the state claims through the Additional General Counsel, Sudhakar Reddy.

Justice Kumar agreed with the view that the state government’s false statement in this regard was prima facie derogatory and contemptuous, and ordered the high court registry to issue a show cause notice to the government of the ‘State for the same. Judge Kumar also ordered the Registrar General of the High Court to initiate criminal proceedings against Reddy for perjury.

“A judicial power attacked by people in power”

Opinions may differ on whether Judge Kumar should have answered as he did, beyond the reasons for refusing to recuse himself, as requested by the state government in a given case. As Reddy claimed that the state government’s recusal request was based on media reports of the judge’s observations during the hearing of the case, threatening him with contempt charges and criminal prosecution for perjury may seem like a disproportionate response from the court.

However, Judge Kumar’s observations – which seem irrelevant to the facts of the case before him – must be understood in the context of his impending retirement and his sense of powerlessness to uphold the majesty of the tribunal. As he mentions, “Nowadays a very disturbing trend has developed in our system. If someone is influential, powerful, that is, both in money and in muscle, he feels that he has every privilege to do anything according to his convenience and at the risk of the system or the poor citizen ”.

Referring to the Supreme Court’s stay of its order asking why the High Court could not find that the constitutional machinery in the state had failed, Judge Kumar observed that an adverse inference could be drawn against the police acts / excesses in the state. .

Judge Kumar referred to the state government’s recommendation to abolish the state legislative council only because it disagreed with the assembly’s decision to establish three capitals and its action against the state election commissioner because he was not proceeding according to his wishes. Judge Kumar alleged that state police practically engaged in a practice of protecting defendants in registered FIRs following complaints filed by the high court registry.

Judge Kumar expressed his fear that state bureaucrats were emboldened after “the apparent success of the Chief Minister of State” by addressing a letter to Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde and making it public. In his letter, Chief Minister Jaganmohan Reddy made serious allegations against Supreme Court Justice NV Ramana, the Chief Justice of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh and a number of sitting judges of the upper court.

Judge Kumar pointed out that the chief minister was charged in more than 30 cases, of which the Central Bureau of Investigation is investigating at least ten cases. “In these cases, where indictment sheets were filed long ago, there is an allegation that he took several crore rupees as a bribe and committed serious offenses under the law. of 1988 on the prevention of corruption and other offenses, ”Judge Kumar observed.

“Surprisingly, although cases have been pending since 2011 and beyond, to date in none of the cases have charges been made. Isn’t that a mockery of the system? ” He asked.

Judge Kumar also questioned CJI’s mysterious silence on the letter from the Chief Minister, saying: “We don’t know whether or not contempt proceedings were brought by him; But, it is a fact that the recommendation was made on December 14, 2020 by the Supreme Court College for the transfer / appointment of Chief Justices, which includes the transfer of the Chief Justice of the High Court from the AP to the High Court of Sikkim and the transfer of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Telangana to the High Court of Uttarakhand ”.

A worrying trend?

After noticing the apparent connection between these two events, Judge Kumar observed: “Whether it is through this act of sending an informal letter to CJI, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh will or will not obtain final redress, but the fact remains that he succeeded in obtaining an undue advantage. at the present moment. “

Judge Kumar deduced that by these transfers, naturally, the pending cases against the Chief Minister could be delayed and the review by the Supreme Court could be hampered for the time being.

“Likewise, by the transfer of the chief justice of the high court from the PA, the government of Andhra Pradesh is bound to take an undue advantage from it,” he added. Justice Kumar stressed the need for transparency in the transfer of High Court judges or its chief justices, saying that “after all they also hold constitutional positions as members of the Supreme Court College “.

Many may question whether Judge Kumar should give details of the CBI and Law Enforcement (ED) cases in which the Chief Minister is an accused, and the other cases in which he is alleged to have committed offenses under the Indian Penal Code. So, he said there were 11 CBI cases, six DE cases and 18 IPC cases against the Chief Minister. Of these in six or seven cases, he said, state police submitted a closing report, stating that they were false or an error of fact.

He even alleged that the director general of the state police operates according to the diktat of the government, and not according to the rule of law. He said he was forced to record these facts because his impartiality was questioned by the state on the eve of his retirement.

Turning his anger to the post-retirement sinecures for judges as the reason the judiciary is in a cloud, he said: “If we start to curtail our reassignment / re-employment expectations for at least a period of one. year after retirement, I do not think that any political party, even ruling party, can undermine the independence of the judiciary and we can be able to uphold the majesty of the law without being influenced by anyone whom it would be.

Judge Kumar concluded that those in power in the state are now seeking to attack the Supreme Court, having successfully attacked other institutions such as the Legislative Council, the State Election Commission and the High Court.

In light of Justice Kumar’s hard-hitting order, it may be recalled or overturned to avoid embarrassment at the Supreme Court. But the allegations and innuendoes made by Justice Kumar in his latest order may help unravel obscure deals made behind the curtain to resolve the state’s gang warfare, with repercussions in New Delhi.