Attorney General KK Venugopal on Saturday refused to reconsider his decision to decline consent for contempt proceedings against Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and his principal advisor Ajeya Kallam for making allegations against judges, reported PTI. The request was raised by Bharatiya Janata Party leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay on November 5.
Last month, Reddy had written to Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde, alleging that Supreme Court judge Justice NV Ramana had been influencing the sittings of the state High Court, including the roster of some judges. In a letter dated October 6, Reddy alleged that cases important to the Opposition Telugu Desam Party were “allocated to a few judges”.
Venugopal on Saturday reiterated his stand saying that the matter of contempt was between the CJI, the chief minister, and his principal advisor. The attorney general also said that the lawyer could raise the matter on his own before the Supreme Court judges or during the proceedings of a plea filed by him.
The attorney general also said that the CJI was aware of the matter and it would be, therefore, inappropriate for him to give consent and “preclude the determination of the Chief Justice of India on the matter”. Asking for the consent of the attorney general is a condition for beginning criminal contempt against a person.
On November 5, Upadhyay had appealed to Venugopal to reconsider his decision. “I humbly request you to peruse these points [particularly the fact that the question of contempt is not pending anywhere else] and kindly reconsider the granting of consent to my request,” he had written in a letter to the attorney general. “This is an issue of great importance at a time when our judiciary continues to be besieged by attacks, and a strong stand needs to be taken by those of us who are a part of the institution.”
On November 2, Venugopal had first declined a request to initiate contempt proceedings against Reddy and his principal advisor. On October 25, Upadhyay had written to him about the matter. He had said the chief minister’s letter “scandalises” the authority of both the Supreme Court and the High Court. Upadhayay had also written that if this kind of precedent was allowed, political leaders would start making “reckless allegations” against judges.
Reddy’s letter was released after a bench headed by Ramana ordered proceedings against the chief minister in a disproportionate assets case. The bench was hearing a petition seeking fast-tracking of pending criminal cases against sitting and former lawmakers. On October 10, the very next day after the order was passed, the letter, dated October 6, was made public by Reddy’s principal advisor.
Protests were launched by Bar Associations and former judges against Reddy for levelling such allegations against the top court judge in an “irresponsible manner”. The Supreme Court Bar Association also passed a resolution on October 16 condemning the letter. However, the body’s President Dushyant Dave has expressed his dissent against the resolution.
On October 17, Justice NV Ramana had said that judges should be “fearless in their decisions to withstand all pressures and odds” after the controversy. Ramana, next in line to become the chief justice of India, added that the greatest strength of the judiciary was the faith of the people in it.