Andhra Pradesh Chief Ministers’ Conflict with Judiciary

• In 1961, D. Sanjivayya wrote to Union Home Minister alleging the Judges • In 2020, Jagan Mohan Reddy openly writes to the Chief Justice of India

Dr.Hari Desai Wednesday 16th December 2020 08:07 EST

Decades before Jagan Mohan Reddy, the present Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh (AP) wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of India making wild allegations against the High Court judges, Damodaram Sanjivayya, the second Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh (AP), had written a 9-page letter dated 4 November 1961 to Lal Bahadur Shastri, the Home Minister of India, complaining about the judges of the same High Court! Of course, the issue was settled without much hue and cry in public by the then Nehru Government but present day controversy has taken ugly shape of whether contempt of court proceedings be initiated against a popular Chief Minister.

Jagan Mohan Reddy, the present Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, wrote a strong worded letter to Justice S.A. Bobde, the Chief Justice of India on 6 October 2020 making wild allegations against the judges of Andhra High Court including one Justice N. V. Ramana who is next to Justice Bobde in seniority and one who is expected to be the Chief Justice of India. In the past the judiciary rarely and exceptionally faced such criticism, but these days the Indian Judiciary is being attacked day in and day out from within and even by the politicians.

K.K.Venugopal, the Attorney General of India, says: “Today electronic and print media are freely commenting on pending cases in an attempt to influence judges and public perception. This is doing great damage to the institution.” Media trials are definitely damaging the judiciary but even sitting as well as retired judges too have been critical of certain judges by holding press conferences or issuing statements. Justice Ranjan Gogoi, the retired Chief Justice of India and present Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha), had at point of time joined three other brother sitting judges of the Supreme Court holding press conference criticizing their own head and seniors. Later a lady assistant had accused Justice Gogoi even when he was CJI which turned out to be a big controversy.

Even after CM Reddy’s letter to the CJI and release of the letter by his advisor to press, the High Court judges continued to be “irritation” for him. In a peculiar development in the Andhra Pradesh High Court in November 2020, a division bench has converted the hearing on a batch of habeas corpus petitions and petitions alleging police excesses as a hearing on the issue whether there is a "constitutional breakdown" in the State of Andhra Pradesh. A division bench comprising Justices Rakesh Kumar and Uma Devi has directed the government counsel to make submissions on whether the court can record a finding that there is “Constitutional breakdown” in the light of the circumstances which are prevailing in the State of AP.

During the hearing held on 20 November 2020, certain interesting exchanges happened in the court, when Justice Rakesh Kumar, the presiding judge, made several oral observations on the policy decisions of the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government of the State. Justice Rakesh Kumar termed the three-capital decision of the Jagan Government to be "mindless", as crores of public money have already been spent on the present capital. Justice Rakesh Kumar was transferred from Patna High Court to Andhra Pradesh High Court last year. Shortly before his transfer to AP High Court, Justice Rakesh Kumar had created a furore in the Patna High Court by passing a direction for CBI investigation into alleged corruption in the subordinate judiciary. In that order, Justice Rakesh Kumar had made startling observations such as "corruption in this High Court is an open secret" and that "judges were more interested in enjoying privileges than administering justice".

From the records of the National Archives of India, this writer could lay hands on an interesting letter written in 1961 by the then state Chief Minister D. Sanjivayya to Union Home Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. In the scathing letter, Sanjivayya, the first Dalit Chief Minister of India, accused the then Andhra Pradesh High Court Chief Justice P. Chandra Reddy of being “communal-minded” and acting at the behest of fellow judges Justices P. Satyanarayana Raju and Jagan Mohan Reddi.

Sanjivayya said, “the High Court had fallen on evil days” after Justice Chandra Reddy took over as the Chief Justice. “The sad degeneration in every aspect is beyond description,” Sanjivayya wrote, adding that “politics have crept into the High Court where also groupism on communal and other lines has been predominant.”Sanjivayya alleged that in all appointments and transfers, Justice Chandra Reddy was guided by considerations of communalism and favouritism. Citing an example, the then CM said “E. Venkatesam, though he is average type of lawyer, has been recommended by the Chief Justice for appointment as high court judge” because he was “a junior under Mr P. Satyanarayana Raju.” “On the whole, I hear sickening reports about these persons,” Sanjivayya said and requested Shastri, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the Chief Justice of India to do justice to the people of the state.

Sanjivayya wrote, the “Chief Justice Chandra Reddy openly encourages his caste-men in the bar much to the heartburn of other members of the bar.”“How can there be real national integration if such high placed dignitaries behave in such unbecoming manner and if they are allowed to continue like that? The confidence of the public will be shaken if the judiciary favours one group or community,” the letter stated.“It is not good for the institution or the state or even for himself if people lose faith on some account or other. I can assertively state that the confidence of public is badly shaken in his regime as Chief Justice,” the former CM wrote and sought Justice Chandra Reddy’s transfer. “If he is not transferred from the High Court immediately, the reputation thereof will be damaged beyond repair. I therefore strongly press for his transfer at once in the interests of the state and its people and the reputation of the high court itself,” the letter stated.

It seems present Christian Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Jagan Mohan Reddy is drawing inspiration from Sanjivayya but his open political battle is certainly damaging the prestige of Indian judiciary. In fact, such issues must be settled by the rulers and the judiciary amicably without tarnishing the image of the judges. Unfortunately, the political bosses aspire to have “committed judiciary” and do not prefer independent judges.

Next Column: First Convention of Indian National Congress in 1885

Photo Line:

Andhra Chief Ministers on common ground: Damodaram Sanjivayya and Jagan Mohan Reddy

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