NEW DELHI: Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde has initiated a slew of steps to deal with the crisis in the judiciary in the wake of an unprecedented letter written by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy to him on October 6, 2020.
In his letter that was later officially released to the media, the AP chief minister had accused the second seniormost judge of the Supreme Court Justice NV Ramana of influencing the roster of the Andhra Pradesh High Court to favour the rival Telugu Desam Party, and the state Chief Justice Jitendra Kumar Maheshwari of bias.
Among the steps taken by CJI Bobde was to shift Chief Justice Maheshwari to Sikkim and his Telangana counterpart R S Chauhan to Uttarakhand apart from transfers and promotions of a few other high court judges in a move that appeared as a routine reshuffle. The shake-up came into effect on Thursday following their gazette notification after President Ramnath Kovind’s assent.
But what was not disclosed then was that the CJI had simultaneously initiated a few other measures, including asking Jagan to send his complaint in the form of an affidavit (given under oath). The latter is understood to have complied by sending the same letter he had written to the CJI on October 6 as a signed affidavit.
Parallelly, the CJI sought responses from both justices Ramana and Maheshwari to the allegations made by Jagan. The letter accused the Chief Justice Maheshwari of staying almost every decision taken by the state government under influence from Justice Ramana. While Chief Justice Maheshwari is said to have sent a voluminous reply to the CJI, details of how Justice Ramana responded are not known.
Before initiating the action on Jagan’s letter, CJI Bobde is learnt to have discussed the matter with a few of his colleagues in the Supreme Court. The opinion given, according to sources, was that the charges required ‘deeper examination’.
That the CJI viewed the issue with the attention it deserved was evident from the transfer of Chief Justice Maheshwari, while a bench of the SC in a parallel action stayed the gag order of the Andhra Pradesh high court on the media from reporting details of the investigation by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) into what has come to be known as the Amaravati land scam. Apart from former advocate general of Andhra Pradesh Dammalapati Srinivas and several others, the family members of Justice Ramana have also been named by the ACB in its FIR on the land scam.