Former Supreme Court judge V. Gopala Gowda has described the letter sent by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy to the Supreme Court Chief Justice of India regarding the alleged misconduct conduct of Justice N.V. Ramana and some judges of Andhra Pradesh (AP) High Court as an “affront to a vibrant judiciary”.
“The Chief Justice of India (CJI) has to apply his mind to the matter and then take appropriate action,” he observed in an email interview to The Hindu.
Justice Gowda (retd.) said the letter was unprecedented, particularly in view of the manner of its release in the public domain and the allegations levelled against Justice Ramana as well as the Chief Justice and other judges of A.P. High Court. An independent judiciary was not only an important wing of constitutional democracy but also the very sentinel of the rule of law and good governance, he said.
The letter and its public disclosure not only compromised the dignity, independence and majesty of the apex court and the A.P. High Court but has also, consequently, interfered with administration of justice and scandalised the court in the eyes of the people by sensationalising the issue, Justice Gowda said.
Stating that the manner of the letter’s release at a press conference was coloured by severe impropriety, he said it appears that sensationalising the issue was the priority and not a genuine quest for truth of the matter.
As far as accusing Justice Ramana and some judges of the High Court of nepotism is concerned, Justice Gowda said the judges named in the CM’s letter are critical functionaries discharging sacrosanct functions under the Constitution.
Aspersions and allegations against them ought not to be made lightly for sensationalism without substantive and positive evidence. Nothing short of the faith of the people in the judiciary and the rule of law is at stake.
The majesty of the judiciary has never been more fragile ever since the unprecedented press conference addressed by four former judges of the apex court, he added.
Justice Gowda said: “Article 121 and Article 211 of the Constitution expressly bar the Parliament and State Legislatures to discuss the conduct of any Judge. The Constitution confers such immunity having regard to the onerous responsibility of judges in discharging constitutional functions. The matter at hand must be seen in this context.”
Asked if the Chief Minister’s letter amounted to contempt of court as is being argued by a section of the legal fraternity, Justice Gowda said it is subject to a decision by the CJI on the touchstone of the applicable contempt law(s) in the country.
Timing of letter
Regarding suspicions about the timing of the letter, the intentions behind it and the fears that the judiciary has been deliberately dragged into the political muddle, Justice Gowda responded: “I understand that as a matter of fact, a number of cases, including criminal cases, are pending against the CM as on date before courts of law. Timing of the letter and sensationalising the issue ostensibly casts a doubt on the motive.”
“Such being the immunity and privileges conferred on judges by the Constitution, it is highly unfortunate that politics took the discussion on constitutional functionaries to social media making a circus out of it all,” he said.
Justice Gowda said the CM should have taken up the matter confidentially with CJI, not in the way the issue was raked up publicly.