The Supreme Court on Monday reserved its order on a petition challenging the appointment of Justice N. V. Ramana as a judge of Andhra Pradesh High Court despite pendency of a criminal case against him.
A bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai reserved its order on a PIL filed by one M. Manohar Reddy challenging the appointment on the ground that Justice Ramana was a proclaimed offender at the time of his appointment in a case of rioting and destruction of public property in 1981 when he was a student of Nagarjuna University.
The court, however, said it was not possible for it or government authority to know on the pending case and the record of the case says that the trial court had declared him proclaimed offender in violation of the Criminal Procedure Code. “The inquiry report says that even proclamation was declared without following the Criminal Procedure Code,” the bench said.
“There was no possibility of its knowing. Perhaps the presiding officer of the court, where the case is pending, might not also be aware about the case. Only the complainant and the subordinate staff of the court might know about the case,” it said.
The Attorney General submitted that courts cannot pass order for removal of a high court judge and it is for Parliament to take action through impeachment. “Court cannot issue quo warranto. The matter has to be referred to the Parliament which can undertake the proceedings. If the Parliament chooses not to proceed then the lordships are bound by it,” the Attorney General said.
The bench also said that Justice Ramana’s appointment as a high court judge was turned down by the collegiums twice but his elevation was only when the President, the central government, and the law minister had asked for it.
Senior advocate Shanti Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, objected to the government’s interference in the judicial appointment and said that it was done under their pressure.
The apex court, however, said that the authorities were entitled to their views. “We did not use the word pressure. You are putting your words in our mouth,” the bench said.
It also said that if there was political motive behind the appointment then the case against the judge would have been dropped much before his elevation.
The AG also filed documents relating to Justice Ramana’s appointment in a sealed cover but the seal was not opened by the court.
In the last hearing on December 7, the bench had directed the Guntur district court to file details of the case which was going on against the judge.
Justice Ramana was elevated as permanent judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court on June 27, 2000.
The petitioner alleged that the trial proceeded against the judge before a Guntur court which admitted a charge sheet naming him an accused in October 1983.
While the trial prolonged for close to two decades, on May 8, 2000 he was declared a proclaimed offender in the case and a month later, he was appointed as a permanent judge of the high court, the petitioner contended.
He further alleged that warrant was also issued against the judge on December 2 but it went unanswered and later on then TDP government withdrew the prosecution against him on January 31, 2002.