File affidavit, SC tells ex-HC judge

Row over phone conversation between him and suspended judicial officer

January 12, 2021 05:02 am | Updated 10:11 am IST - New Delhi

V. Eswaraiah. File photo: V. Raju

V. Eswaraiah. File photo: V. Raju

The Supreme Court on Monday asked former Andhra Pradesh High Court judge, Justice V. Eswaraiah, to file an affidavit about the “private phone conversation” between him and a suspended judicial officer, which the State High Court dubbed a “serious conspiracy” to destabilise the judiciary.

The High Court, on August 13, ordered a judicial inquiry by former Supreme Court judge, Justice R.V. Raveendran, into the phone chat. It had termed the conversation an attempt to “malign” a senior sitting Supreme Court judge and the then Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court.

On Monday, appearing for Justice Eswaraiah, advocate Prashant Bhushan asked a three-judge Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan how a private chat could be called a “conspiracy” to revile the judiciary.

‘Nothing private’

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal and advocate Vipin Nair, for an intervenor-advocate, P. Samuel John, said “there was nothing private about the conversation.” Mr. Sibal said the conversation was “motivated to attack the system.” Mr. John, in his application, said it was common knowledge among the members of the Bar that the present State government has launched a series of systematic attacks on the High Court and its judges for questioning its “radical” executive decisions which does not pass judicial scrutiny.

Justice Bhushan recorded Mr. Bhushan’s oral statement in court that Justice Eswaraiah “does not dispute the conversation.” Mr. Bhushan informed the court that a transcript of the conversation has been filed along with the appeal against the August 13 order of the High Court.

“The petitioner [Justice Eswaraiah] had in fact spoken publicly about the misconduct of the sitting Supreme Court judge and his nexus with the erstwhile government [of Chandrababu Naidu] and he was privy to the various facts regarding this misconduct,” the petition filed by Justice Eswaraiah said. The petition said the misconduct Justice Eswariah was talking about was the “subject matter of an enquiry by the cabinet committee regarding dubious property transactions for unlawful gain, also involving the sitting Supreme Court judge and other public servants at the helm of affairs in the erstwhile government of Andhra Pradesh.”

“This conspiracy was the subject matter of an FIR which names Dammalapati Srinivas, formerly Additional Advocate General, Andhra Pradesh, and 12 others, including the two daughters of the Supreme Court judge ... In these circumstances, it was legitimate for the petitioner to seek any further information about the misconduct of the judge from anyone who might be privy to such information,” the petition said.

The court scheduled the next hearing for Monday.

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