SUGHOSH SUBRAMANYAM / Guest Author
The silence of the judiciary should not lead to the conclusion that Mr. Reddy’s anguish is justified. It is important to note that the members of the judiciary are under the obligation of not responding publicly to these criticisms. The judiciary, quite easily and quite frequently, becomes the target of such malicious mudslinging. In these moments, it is more important to look into the nature of the allegations and their backdrop.
On 10th October, 2020, a letter addressed by the incumbent Chief Minister of the State of Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, to the current Chief Justice of India, Mr. Justice S.A. Bobde was released to the public. The letter makes wide sweeping allegations against a sitting Supreme Court judge and the Hon’ble Chief Justice of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh. In his letter, Mr. Reddy alleges that the Hon’ble sitting judge of the Supreme Court is influencing the administration of justice in the state of Andhra Pradesh in an attempt to interfere with the functioning of his Government. Mr. Reddy also seems to suggest that certain judges of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh are also complicit in this attempt.
Without looking into the contents of the letter, which are full of stray and unsubstantiated allegations, any lay person can see the sinister design of Mr. Reddy. It is quite clear that it is yet another effort to ensure that the judiciary also toes the line of the ruling dispensation. For the citizens, the judiciary remains the only organ which is easily approachable for the common people to voice their concerns against the whims and caprices of the Executive and Legislature. It is true that the judiciary may err as well, however, they do so with utmost transparency, humility, and through giving us a right to appeal. It is quite understandable that the executive and the legislature will use all possible means to make the judiciary as toothless as possible.
And Mr. Reddy’s anguish is particularly understandable. Since Mr. Reddy took oath as the Chief Minister of the new state of Andhra Pradesh, he seems to be in an undue haste to undo the doings of the former government. One such action was the sudden transformation of all government primary schools to English medium, leaving little choice for the Telugu speaking majority to teach their children in a Telegu medium school. When a Writ Petition was filed challenging the Executive Order, through which this was done, the High Court of Andhra Pradesh struck it down by finding it unconstitutional. In another major instance, Mr. Reddy’s Government, unilaterally and in undue haste, decided to trifurcate the greenfield capital of the state Amaravati into three separate capitals for the three branches of the government. This move was without wider public participation, which the Hon’ble High Court of Andhra Pradesh had directed, and also with the sole consideration of undoing the predecessor’s governments most important project. Through various writ petitions filed by aggrieved farmers and other persons, the High Court of Andhra Pradesh is seized of the matter too. It is, therefore, quite understandable that Mr. Reddy is anxious about the judiciary doing its duty, which will put his government’s unconstitutional acts in jeopardy.
Mr. Reddy has also targeted a particular sitting Judge of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The reason seems to be as clear as the day. The said Hon’ble Judge was recently part of a bench which directed that the criminal trials against legislators across the country be expedited. Even the Central government was ad idem that this direction be passed in the matter. But of course, this judgment affects certain classes of elected representatives more than others, particularly Mr. Reddy, who has admittedly thirty-one cases pending against him, which will come out of cold storage.
Mr. Reddy has also alluded to a certain order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, however, the author will refrain from commenting on it. Since, unlike Mr. Reddy, the author is not in a position to commit contempt of Court so cavalierly. It is quite clear that Mr. Reddy’s intention was to indirectly violate the order of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh.
Yet again, I would say that Mr. Reddy’s anguish is understandable. After all, Mr. Reddy is not the first political head to attempt this. This attempt of Mr. Reddy harks back to Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s infamous attempts to fill the judiciary with “committed” judges. Indira Gandhi, too, questioned the appointment and alignment of judges who would question her government’s unconstitutional motives. Mr. Reddy seems to have skimmed his history books, but he seems to have not finished the chapters. As history shows, the judiciary has always maintained its integrity and while political dispensations come and go, the institution of the judiciary remains committed to its singular duty to uphold the values of the constitution and the rights guaranteed to the citizens.
The silence of the judiciary should not lead to the conclusion that Mr. Reddy’s anguish is justified. It is important to note that the members of the judiciary are under the obligation of not responding publicly to these criticisms. The judiciary, quite easily and quite frequently, becomes the target of such malicious mudslinging. In these moments, it is more important to look into the nature of the allegations and their backdrop. Mr. Reddy’s allegations, particularly, seem to arise out of malice and fear. Mr. Reddy may now very well know that his unconstitutional motives may never hold water in an impartial court of law, and he has now taken the last resort of maligning the very institution which stands between him and his attempts at destroying the values enshrined in the constitution.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Press India.)