Supreme Court must waive confidentiality rule and disclose reasons for rejecting A.P. CM’s charges.
The Supreme Court has dealt with a grave matter concerning issues of judicial propriety with characteristic opaqueness. It has dismissed a complaint from Andhra Pradesh CM Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, containing explosive allegations against CJI-designate Justice N.V. Ramana, but declined to disclose the findings of an in-house inquiry. The rejection was disclosed on the Court’s website on the day CJI S.A. Bobde recommended Justice Ramana as his successor. Going by procedure, a committee of three judges must have inquired into the charges. The lack of transparency is based on a 2003 judgment of the apex court that any inquiry under this procedure is meant only for “the information and satisfaction” of the CJI, and is not meant for the public. However, this may be an instance when not many will agree with the confidentiality norm. The allegations came from a person holding the high office of CM, and the crux of his grievance was that the A.P. High Court was hostile to him and his regime due to the influence wielded by Justice Ramana. Further, he accused the judge of proximity with Mr. Reddy’s political rivals and alleged involvement of his family members in a land scam that involved prior knowledge that Amaravati was to be declared the State’s capital and speculative buying of land there. There is little to commend the requirement of confidentiality in a probe of this nature, as the dismissal of the complaint ipso facto means that a serving CM has levelled false and motivated charges against a senior Supreme Court judge as well as those in the High Court. Mr. Reddy is surely in contempt of court if the committee found no merit in the allegations that he raised in a signed affidavit.
Should the confidentiality rule always hold the field? Is it possible to dismiss the allegations without disclosing who were heard as witnesses and what material was considered as evidence? Was Mr. Reddy given an opportunity to substantiate his charges? And, does he get to know the conclusions? The unsavoury charges are bound to come up in some form or the other again. The A.P. government has appealed against a High Court judgment that stayed a police investigation in the Amaravati land issue. Mr. Reddy faces prosecution in corruption cases himself. A key allegation against him is that his animosity towards Justice Ramana arises from an order that a Bench headed by the latter had passed, that cases involving elected representatives be expedited. In a separate development, the High Court had also ordered a CBI probe into social media posts targeting judges. The charges being bandied about are overtly political, and the episode has become unpleasant. Notwithstanding the confidentiality norm laid down for in-house probes, it behoves the Court to demonstrate that justice was both done and was seen to be done.