It was at the instance of Ram Jethmalani, as Minister, that Justice N. Venkata Ramana was appointed as a High Court judge, says the petition

The Supreme Court on Friday sought the assistance of Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati in deciding the maintainability of a quo warranto against an Andhra Pradesh High Court judge continuing in office as, the writ petition said, a criminal case was pending against him on the date of the recommendation for his appointment.

A Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai, hearing the petition filed by two advocates, told senior counsel Ram Jethmalani, who appeared for them: “Please tell us what we should do… In this particular case, the collegium had twice rejected the name of this particular judge [Justice N. Venkata Ramana. Not on this ground but on grounds of his eligibility for the post, age and other factors. But it was at the instance of the then Union Law Minister that his appointment was made.” Mr. Jethmalani immediately realised the inference and said: “Your Lordships are indicating that I was the Law Minister at that time [of appointment of the judge]. I do not remember about those files….. But your Lordships may suggest [to] me what can be done to undo it.”

It was at this stage that the Bench directed the Attorney-General to assist the court and place before it in a sealed cover the petitioners’ complaint [addressed] to the former CJI against Justice Ramana in January this year, and the response of the CJI, besides the correspondence exchanged by the then Law Minister and the petitioners, who had forwarded an identical complaint.

The court asked the Additional Munsif Magistrate, Mangalagiri, Guntur district, to place before it the records of the case pending against the judge and its present status.

According to the petitioners, M. Manohar Reddy and M.V. Narasimha Reddy, several students of Nagarjuna University in Guntur on February 13, 1981 indulged in large-scale rioting and caused damage to public property including transport buses, and passengers also suffered injuries. The same day, a First Information Report was registered at the Mangalagiri police station against the ringleaders including Nuthalapati Venkata Ramana as accused No. 4, who is cited as respondent No. 3 in the writ petition.

The petitioners contended that during enrolment on February 7, 1983, he suppressed the information about the pendency of the case. On May 8, 2000, he was declared a proclaimed absconder but curiously within a few days, on June 27, 2000, he became judge. They contended that the consultation process and the appointment were vitiated. If such an appointment was permitted to stand, it would send out a wrong message to the legal community in which integrity is a touchstone of judicial office, the petitioners said.