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Former HC judge files affidavit in phone conversation case

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Former Andhra Pradesh High Court judge, Justice V. Eswaraiah, has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court contending that a “deliberately distorted” version of his private phone conversation with a suspended judicial officer became the basis for the State High Court to launch an inquiry into a “conspiracy” against the higher judiciary.

Justice Eswaraiah, who is the Chairman of the Andhra Pradesh State Higher Education Regulatory and Monitoring Commission, said the allegations of “conspiracy” and a “plot” against the judiciary derived from the contents of the conversation were basically “white lies”, derogatory and defamatory to him.

He said some parts of the entire conversation were possibly edited out.

The High Court, on August 13, had ordered a judicial inquiry by former Supreme Court judge, Justice R.V. Raveendran, into the phone chat.

The High Court 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.

Justice Eswaraiah had appealed to the apex court against the High Court order.

On January 11, a three-judge Bench of the apex court led by Justice Ashok Bhushan asked Justice Eswaraiah, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, to file an affidavit about the phone conversation.

In his affidavit, Justice Eswaraiah said “my admission or denial of the private conversation with the suspended district magistrate Mr. Ramakrishna is immaterial in deciding the present SLP as the High Court order is challenged on the ground that it is untenable in law and violative of my right to privacy, which is held to be a fundamental right.”

Senior advocate Harish Salve and advocate Vipin Nair, for an intervenor-advocate, P. Samuel John, had objected to Justice Eswaraiah saying “there was nothing private about the conversation.”

But Justice Eswaraiah, in his affidavit, said he had not committed a crime. There was no complaint filed by anybody on the basis of the private conversation, he reasoned.

The affidavit said the High Court order for an inquiry was based on a pen drive handed over by Mr. Ramakrishna. The pen drive allegedly contained the conversation.

However, Justice Eswaraiah said it could not be confirmed whether the “conversation as contained in the pen drive is the exact conversation”.

“The voice appears to be mine. It is possible that some parts of the conversation have been edited out. Therefore conversation contained in the pen drive may not be the exact conversation,” he said in the affidavit.

Besides, Justice Eswaraiah pointed out that the conversation took place on WhatsApp, which is end-to-end encrypted. Hence, the recording would have been done by Mr. Ramakrishna through an external device. This device, the former judge said, was not a primary source of the conversation and could be easily distorted using technology.

He said the English translation of the conversation given by the suspended judicial officer was “deliberately distorted to give a false and misleading impression about the conversation.”

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 6:22:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/former-hc-judge-files-affidavit-in-phone-conversation-case/article33594789.ece

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