India’s Attorney General KK Venugopal on Monday declined to give his consent to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and his advisor Ajeya Kallam, for making public allegations against sitting Supreme Court Justice NV Ramana. The controversy broke out on October 6, when in an unprecedented move, the Chief Minister wrote to Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, alleging that the Andhra Pradesh High Court was being used to "destabilise and topple” the government in Andhra Pradesh.
Following this, BJP member and lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay had written to the Attorney General for his consent to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against Jagan. The AG, while declining consent, opined that Jagan's conduct and that of his advisor was "prima facie contumacious,” but added that since the Chief Justice of India is "seized of the matter," it would be inappropriate of the Attorney General's office to deal with the same.
The AG, in his reply to Ashwini Upadhyay, said, "I am of the opinion that the timing itself of the letter as well as it being placed in the public domain through a press conference could certainly be said to be suspect, in the background of the order passed by Justice Ramana dated September 16 directing pending prosecution of elected representatives to be taken up and disposed of expeditiously." The AG also pointed out that the AP Chief Minister is facing prosecution in 31 cases.
Upadhyay is also the petitioner in the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking to fast track trial cases against elected representatives in the country. On September 16, a bench headed by Justice Ramana had issued an order to fast track criminal cases against legislators, which would affect Jagan, as he faces cases of disproportionate assets and quid pro quo filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
"In this background, prima facie, the conduct of the said persons is contumacious (disobedient). However, what has to be noted is that the entire case of contempt arises out of the letter dated October 6 written by the Chief Minister directly to the Chief Justice of India and the subsequent press conference held by Ajeya Kallam. The Chief Justice of India is seized of the matter. Hence, it would not be appropriate for me to deal with the matter,” the AG added.
In his letter, the Chief Minister had also alleged that Justice Ramana was close to Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief Chandrababu Naidu and that a “former judge of the honourable Supreme Court placed this fact on record.” Jagan in his letter requested the CJI to look into his allegations and consider initiating steps “as may be considered fit and proper to ensure that the state judiciary's neutrality is maintained.”
Read what CM Jagan had said in his letter: In explosive letter, Jagan alleges future CJI Justice Ramana is destabilizing his govt