In an unprecedented move, the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy has written to the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, levelling serious allegations against the second senior most judge in the Supreme Court, Justice NV Ramana. Jagan has alleged that Justice Ramana has been ‘influencing’ the functioning of the Andhra Pradesh High Court to act in favour of the opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP). Justice Ramana is next in line to be the CJI after SA Bobde retires in April 2021. This is perhaps the first time ever in India that a politician in a ruling party has ever written to the CJI regarding a senior judge. Jagan's letter also mentions four other judges, who he alleges are in cahoots with Justice Ramana and the TDP.
On Saturday evening, the Andhra Pradesh government called a press meet, amid much anticipation. After a long wait filled with speculation over the speaker and subject of the conference, CM Jagan’s Principal Advisor Ajeya Kallam appeared briefly, sharing the letter and other ‘supporting evidence’ with the media.
In the letter, Jagan has referred to a recent order passed by Andhra Pradesh Chief Justice J K Maheshwari, staying the investigation into a case of alleged corruption where several persons, including Justice Ramana's daughters were accused of abusing their official position to buy land in Amaravati, having had prior knowledge of its capital status before it was made public. The High Court also issued an injunction against any reporting by the media on the contents of the First Information Report (FIR).
The YSRCP has urged the Union government to order an investigation by the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) into the alleged land scam in the Amaravati capital region. The YSRCP has repeatedly alleged that the previous TDP government had resorted to insider trading to benefit TDP chief and former CM Chandrababu Naidu and his associates. YSRCP has alleged that information about Amaravati being chosen as the capital location was leaked by those in power before it was publicly announced, and that those who were privy to the information had purchased land in and around Amaravati at throwaway prices in the names of their aides.
In his letter, Jagan has alleged a “nexus” between Justice Ramana, the TDP and certain judges of the Andhra Pradesh High Court. He has also accused him of influencing the HC's roster and thereby the outcome of many cases.
Jagan alleged that the beneficiaries of these judgements “are clearly and exclusively the politicians belonging to TDP,” and went on to allege that Justice Ramana has previously had close ties with the TDP government. “Sri Justice Ramana’s proximity to Mr Chandrababu Naidu is too well-known,” Jagan wrote. "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,” the CM has said in his letter to the CJI.
In the media release shared by the state government, several recent cases were cited to support the allegations that the judiciary in the state has become ‘politicised’ and is being used by the opposition TDP to “destabilize and topple the democratically elected Government of the State of A.P.”
Jagan has also alleged that Justice Ramana and Naidu influenced the promotion of certain judges from the high court bar as acting judges, and that these judges are now acting in favour of the TDP. Letters written in 2017 by Justice Ramana to the CJI, and by Naidu to Union Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad in recommendation of these judges have been shared with the media.
Jagan wrote to the CJI that Justice Ramana has been “influencing the sittings of the High Court including the roster of a few Honourable Judges,” adding that “instances of how matters important to Telugu Desam Party have been allocated to a few Honourable Judges are enclosed in the annexure, along with the copies of the orders passed in a few matters.”
A statement released by the state government on Saturday cited several cases involving the TDP and alleged that four HC judges had repeatedly shown an undue bias for the TDP.
Citing the orders in several cases —- including the alleged Amaravati land scam, introducing English medium in all state schools, painting YSRCP party colours on panchayat buildings, the alleged involvement of TDP leader K Atchannaidu in the ESI scam, the demolition of Naidu’s residence in Amaravati which allegedly violates environmental laws, the fire accident in a Vijayawada COVID Care Centre which killed ten people, the allegations of phone tapping of HC judges by the state government, and allegations against YSRCP leaders violating COVID-19 guidelines — the state government has alleged that the state judiciary has been biased towards the TDP.
CM Jagan’s letter comes a month after a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Ramana had directed the High Courts across the country to fast track hearings in criminal cases filed against lawmakers in India. The bench had directed the Chief Justices of each High Court to ensure that these cases are heard on a day-to-day basis and disposed of expeditiously, preferably within a period of two months without any unnecessary adjournments.”
The TDP has alleged that Jagan, who is an accused in several cases of corruption, is unhappy with the order and therefore maligning Justice Ramana without any proof.
Jagan's letter to the CJI has been given to the media notably after his recent meetings with the Prime Minister and Home Minister.