The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to entertain petitions seeking judicial inquiry or CBI probe against Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy for the circumstances leading to the release of his letter addressed to Chief Justice of India levelling allegations against a sitting Supreme Court judge and State High Court judges.
The court also declined a plea by one of the petitioners to issue a writ of quo warranto against Mr. Reddy for releasing the ‘confidential’ letter to the public and thus “misusing his office”.
Besides, the Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul noted that it did not want any “multiplicity of litigation”. Justice Kaul said another Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan is already examining an appeal filed by the Andhra Pradesh government in a connected issue. This appeal, filed before Justice Bhushan, concerns a September 16 order of the High Court, staying the investigation into the “illegal purchase” of land in Amaravati.
The High Court had also barred the State from taking any coercive action against the persons named in the FIR, which includes relatives of the Supreme Court judge and a former Additional Advocate General, even as it restrained the media from reporting the case. The allegations in the FIR include abuse of official positions in the State, sharing of privileged information and causing loss to the public exchequer during the previous Telugu Desam Party regime. The letter, which Mr. Reddy sent the CJI on October 6, contained allegations in connection with the Amaravati land purchase case. It was this letter which was released on October 10 in a press conference.
On Tuesday, Justice Kaul highlighted that Justice Bhushan’s Bench, on November 25, has lifted the gag order on the media.
“So we have already entertained one petition [Andhra government’s appeal]. There cannot be any multiplicity of litigation... People cannot keep coming to us on this issue. This cannot be an endless exercise,” Justice Kaul told the petitioners.
Advocate G.S. Mani, whose petition is the lead one, argued that the issue before Justice Bhushan’s court is not the same.
But Justice Kaul persisted that consequences flowing from the case before Justice Bhushan may have an effect on every aspect of the issue, including the release of the letter. The Bench refused Mr. Mani’s plea to tag his petition along with the Andhra Pradesh government’s case before Justice Bhushan, saying this cannot devolve into a “merry game”.
“A legal matter is being debated there, let it be debated,” Justice Kaul remarked.
However, the court tagged a petition filed by advocate Sunil Kumar Singh, argued by advocate Mukti Singh, which said the conduct of Mr. Reddy amounted to scandalising and weakening public faith in the judiciary. Ms. Singh referred to the E.M.S. Namboodiripad case, in which the then Kerala Chief Minister was held guilty of contempt of court for his remarks against the judiciary.
Recently, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal had refrained from giving his statutory consent to pleas seeking contempt of court action against Mr. Reddy and his Principal Advisor Ajeya Kallam. Mr. Venugopal said it was up to the CJI, who is “seized of the letter” to take an appropriate decision. Supreme Court advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, in his contempt plea to Mr. Venugopal, claimed that the decision of a Bench led by Justice Ramana on September 16, directing expeditious completion of pending criminal trials against politicians, had spurred Mr. Reddy to write the letter. Mr. Reddy, the lawyer said, had 31 criminal cases against him.