Senior Advocate Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi on the Legally Speaking with Tarun Nangia aired on NewsX about the letter written by Andhra Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy to Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde, and wild allegations levelled against Justice N.V. Ramana.
T.N: Today we are going to discuss an important issue of Andhra Chief Minister via Jagat Mohan Reddy writing a letter to none less than Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde and actually complaining against sitting Supreme Court Judge none other than whose inline to become our next Chief Justice of India Justice Ramana. He has made various wild allegations which are known in the press, reported in the press Since his letter was leaked to the media by Jagat Mohan Reddy. It includes in a sense alluding to influencing benches in the State of Andhra other wild allegations that have been made of courts. The State Government in a sense. The state Police has filled a case against the daughters of Justice Ramana which has also been reported in the press and it looks like a somewhere it is like also an attack on the Institution because should a sitting Chief Minister leaks such a letter to the press A and also cause what he conducted himself in the right spirit of Law but I am not an expert on all of this but the gentlemen who is kindly consented to be my guest today is I would like to welcome third term Senior Rajya Sabha M.P., Former Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on law and an eminent Jurist Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi on Legally Speaking. Sir thank you so much for joining us on the show today.
Singhvi: Thank you, Tarun.
T.N: Sir I mean this issue is not alien to you. You have in a sense peruse through the data all that has been going on for the past week. Can you give me a opening comment on what do you think of the conduct of Jagat Mohan Reddy was it in the right spirit or what is the initial three- four remarks or three- four things or observation that come to your mind when you saw this happening?
Singhvi: well Tarun first of all it’s amusing to be describe as an expert in such messy things I suddenly don’t want to qualify but since we are talking of this rather messy subject let me summarise my opening observations by saying that I find a lot of things wrong with this. Firstly, the timing and the approximate timing and the general timing of this allegation and I will explain why in a moment. Secondly, it’s manner and mode and Thirdly it’s content and each of those are raising a lot of questions about the alleged complainants and I don’t quite agree with a lot of things there and I suddenly I am not privy to insight knowledge or information about this beyond the point to the extent that we are in the profession but all these three things may get rather unsavoury and messy and uncalled for and undesirable and un- acceptable.
T.N: Moving on to our first question let us go on to the first very instance of what happened. A letter was written to the Chief Justice of India and leaked to the press. Do you find anything wrong in that very act committed by Jagat Mohan Reddy the Chief Minister of Andhra?
Singhvi: Well Tarun see, that’s my mode and manner point that’s what I said in one of my three broad headings Certainly not. The answer to your Question is certainly not whosoever be the Complainant Constitutional function or otherwise first of all if you have sufficient strong genuine prabha masai concern and if they are genuinely genuine than you will, you have a mechanism, you have a System, you have a system of Complaining which is confidential, quiet, which doesn’t create sensationalism It appears to me that the context in which this you first send a letter to me, than you hold a press-conference than you again go to the press than you carried all over town through your facto terms I think to put it bluntly stings and it could have been done in a very dignified quiet way if the concerns were genuine and bonafiding and I think that is not happening.
T.N: It is very disconcerting when a sitting Chief Minister accuses a sitting Supreme Court Judge fourth Constitutional in a sense positions of destabilising his government he is in a sense accusing the Supreme Court judge of destabilising the State Government even if that was the allegations was the manner in which that allegation was raised what two- three points come to your mind when you in a sense hear this this kind of an allegation against a sitting Supreme Court Judge?
Singhvi: Well I think the very nature of the allegation realise it the very nature of the allegation dilutes and nullify it’s I’ll tell you why first of all and that’s what we talk about recently by different Constitutional functionaries. It’s wearied that whenever you agree cusp or the angle of some major promotion and position and we all know that the Subject matter of our discussion is schedule to become Chief Justice of India next year. These kinds of port shot start now here the complainant in most of the complaint and the issues are in minimum of two- three years old Afterall the person has been fallen constitutional functionaries for more than two years without the Constitutional functionaries the issue of change of Capital and all the other land related issue have in public domain for couple of years so if there was nothing to the timing I wonder why I am putting the words of the mildest moderation “Why should you raise it know just because you are a cusp of something. Why should you raise it in a context which is intended to be obstructive and defeat something which the world seas as the rightful succession to a Constitutional position to the next Chief Justice of India” so I think this timing also stinks and doesn’t inspire Confidence then thirdly if you are able to say as a Functionary that somebody is destabilising the entire government of Andhra Pradesh doesn’t on the face if it is not seem observed look at the implications it of course gives omnipotence and omni power to a person is a left handed compliment to the accused so to say but a part from that it means that the entire or a large chunk of High Court of the Andhra Pradesh is collusively involves it’s certain chunks of the apex court which is desire enough and that collusion has the reach and envelops a Constitutional functioning of a Government. I mean if you really look in to depth this is bizarre. So the allegation is to wake to general and these announcement of the Capital, purchases of any has not been in the domain for very long why raise in now at this time.
T.N: I agree with you the timing is very suspicious allegations have been made that Raman’s Daughter Justice Ramana’s Daughters purchase land in Abramati which was then to become the Capital but there seems a manner in which the leaks have been made to the press and that raises a suspicion Do you think so Sir in that cases?
Singhvi: There was hardly any concealed leak after the initial leak it was very much out in the public domain in appraisal way. There is first in letter before perhaps it reaches the addressee that is a leak before the leak is over if factotum of the government launches a press- conference before the press- conference is over other factotum takeover. So, I think it is done crudely and more than that I think there is no doubt it is done to embrace it is done to create an atmosphere where some obstruction could be put on god everybody knows is an impending Constitutions Succession.
T.N: In fact, I was shocked to read the content of the letter because Justice Jagat Mohan Reddy wrote to the Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde and I quote Justice Ramana has been influencing the sittings of the High Court including the roster of a few Honourable Judges and instances of a few matters and important to the Telugu desam have been allotted to a few Judges. Now you know when I read this in past few years has been a very common allegation that benches are been fixed it earlier happens to be in the Supreme Court now this allegation is been made align against the sitting Supreme Court Judge by the Virtue of which you are indirectly accusing the Andhra Chief Justice also as if everything is just happening and can be managed?
Singhvi: Worse Tarun Worse it is hit by blanket wild overbroad nature of the width of the allegation as I said half in zest and half not in zest it is a huge left handed compliment to the omnipresence and the omnipotence of the who is accused of doing all this look as I said it requires collusive behaviour of large sections of judges many of them I don’t at all except it for the very nature there is no singularity about it and in individual cases it is possible it happens all the time I file a case it comes before you I have a problem I move a bias application against that judge I say Justice Tarun Nangia is not for this or of the other reason competent to hear it I can understand that in an individual case not that I will accept it not that I agree with it I will understand it that kind of allegation because it is done in the judicial process but to suggest that four judges of Supreme Court along with the next Chief Justice and seven judges of the High Court led by the Chief Justice of the High Court are colluding to help the third political party who happens to be out of power for the sometime. I think it implies credibility and I think it does irreversible huge damage which is not to be taken lightly Afterall we live in bad times faith in all systems in all institutions forget the Supreme Court forget the Army, Forget the CNG forget the so many institutions all of it is declined some with justification but this kind of a wild swiping allegation by sitting Chief Minister who has won an very handsome victory who’s mandate is appreciable. I think it destroys the faith as they say Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah! If you do not respect the Law the law will not protect you tomorrow the legal system protects us all tomorrow when you diminish it you denigrate it you dilute it and it becomes smaller and smaller and smaller our democracy gets imperiled. The whole Hight court is really painted black un-named discriminate allegation against un-named persons and everybody is under the scan of suspicious So you have to even if there is fractional infinity testable germs of truth anywhere which I had the moment of no reason to believe you must do it in a different way you must take a formal thing do it in a dignified way the object there will be not sensualism, not obstruction not putting you in a doc for interior motives.
T.N: That’s what I want to draw your attention to a fact that judges can’t reply in a sense they don’t come out in the public because they are not in the political arena is this an attempt to draw a judiciary into the domain of politics?
Singhvi: You are absolutely right Tarun that there is a Damned if you do and Damned if you don’t Now I heard and that is sad sorry some people il- in formed as I say critics sadly il-informed critics within the legal system also as if why should the people who are accused of all this but reply suggesting there so if you do you cheat on the system you spoil the system you diminish the system and I will never support that if you don’t these il- informed half educated critics makes this invent also look why is he silent why is he not replying so the Damned if you do and Damned if you are not and you know it is certainly an attempt to draw into a completely un-acceptable protest and system it should be resistible and I don’t think anybody should fall for the track of start responding in that manner but the attempt is very appraisal.
T.N: That’s What are the Constitutional provisions by which a sitting Chief Minister in a sence could have taken this to the rightful conclusion knowing fully well that he himself is accused in corruption cases which is known to all is there any which may rightful remedy in a sense have been applied to this issue what could have been done in which we could all call a dignified manner of working or functioning by a sitting Chief Minister?
Singhvi: You are Look first of all let us disabuse ourselves on the impression that a Constitutional functioning the Chief Minister has any special status at least in theory either in the complainant or as an accused in theory at the moment I am taking of theory Second if for example you or I or for that matter sitting Chief Minister has the genuine and not at all linking to the presence case genuine complaint he has first of all to put it in writing in sober, temperate and balance terms with facts not with ajax tips Third he has to send that form to the Chief Justice of India and he has to wait to the every other to make it Confidential Fourth if he is the functionary of Sovereignty and balance he shall than meet the Chief Justice and say they are the reason you consider the in house inquiry procedure. There is in house inquiry procedure as you know which and beyond that give it a sufficient time if there is action or in action then one can consider further things but here as I said I attach It things in writing to a third person by tomorrow I will leath it by day after I have a press conference by the fourth day I have my factotum have a press- conference and that is free for all general work and it is happening in droplets everyday by the way it is not stopped it is happening every three- four days I find limbed of that government some so called advisor some so called functionary taking another port short now if the intention is you now there is also sixth or seventh angle which I have not mentioned out of many angles which I have mentioned the intention could also be to immunise yourself by making such allegations to create or more of immunity in your favour now let us consider seven Senior Judges of Andhra Pradesh High Court and we are only having an example and a case regarding the ruling party comes to you will feel irregulate in deciding it rightly this way or that way Conversely you have seven Senior Judges who have nothing to do they are only a judge a case involving Telegu Desam come before you. You may again be frequently deciding according to the law so you are actually completely paralysing the descent the good the unaffected independent judge also in that process because again there is specific look over a shoulder ten times before reacting as to what to do with this context.
T.N: But Dr. Singhvi one thing I would like to ask you is this an attempt to browbeat the judiciary?
Singhvi: Well I have no doubt that it is at what level and what way are matter of details but certainly let us take one level the Hight Court level it has like the last point I made precisely that it inhabits After all 30 Judges out in the High Court I don’t know how many of them are now it cannot be that all off them are elevated with this imaginary disease which is relist in the letter take five of the unconcerned objective unconnected how will they decide cases for or against party 1 for or against party 2 let us take both of the parties the one is in the power and the one is in opposition and whichever they are decided they are going to be described the interior motives this is either creating a war of immunity around yourself or creating a complete paralysis so I don’t think you are all saying brow beating, paralysing, immunizing and in fact effecting the very rude spirit of independence of judiciary.
T.N: We have a legal system in which eminent lawyers who want to become judges in the Supreme Court some go from the High Court to the Supreme Court and earlier they have professional commitments which could be ranging from representing politicians, Corporates and so on and so forth in Justice Ramana’s he incidentally happened to be the advisor of the government run by Telegu Desam party and also served as the additional advocate general using those facts Jagat Mohan Reddy the Chief Minister of Andhra has attacked him when he was elevated as judge who you think in a sense this is not in healthy spirit A because it is not un- common for so many eminent lawyers who are present I mean represented politician across the spectrum to be elevated to the judiciary tomorrow anybody anyone can just pick up that fact which may be true for so many people who become judges and browbeat the judiciary?
Singhvi: That’s the point anybody who have any familiarity with the system most and this is actually very important for people to understand because increasingly this is becoming distorted we have spend the lifetime in the court we have in the courts for lifetime you and I have been colleagues we have brought against each other we have fought against each other you have assisted me in the case in the same side you have appeared for the opposite parties and then one of us become judges is very normal thing do you thing I take out my amenity on you as a judge because you oppose me in five cases and in your career of twenty twenty five years because you become a judge should represent all kinds of groups and criminals you have after all heard those stories I have personally represented I don’t know any part of the political spectrum which I have not I mean don’t at all think I have not represented BJP MLA, BJP MP and other people also all across the board that’s part of our professional fall now to think that you carry that to the bench with you that’s why I am saying if particularity and a blanket approach are two extremes and as eryptotic says each wise is always extreme virtue always lies in the middle can make a particularity you make a bias application you say a particular case you say that case is relative you say Demo junix which lawyers called it in technical Latin all those is acceptable because that is decided by a judge you say okay it should be heard by this not by this bench any other bench that’s rare but I can understand that but this blanket kind of approach is silly it’s absolutely unimaginable and I mean un-named mass of people, large number of people.
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T.N: Now that this has happened there are inputs from across the Legal Spectrum of course the lot of Lawyers and lawyers association have stood with the Honourable Judge and said that this is an attack on the institution of Judiciary but now that this complaint has been raised what is the closure that can happen there have been in a sense talk about committee of retired judges looking into it some says the CBI itself look into it in your opinion what is the way forward to such an issue how to take it’s to the logical conclusion?
Singhvi: Anyway it’s a difficult question and I genuinely don’t know the true answer One is I would have thought recently ignore it that also is not a good solution not a perfect solution Second is take contempt action again damn if you do damn if you not Contempt is set over a chain in the box text false complainants by themselves desire third is take some action is purely internal is purely quiet, dignified affect ring inquiry kind of thing but how you include in the current atmosphere I am in a lost tell you and what damage it can cause to something which one aspires to for the advance of one’s career After-all we all are ambitious I mean I mean to suggest that you are completely down ambitious or I am so eleemosynary actual eleemosynary motives is to be hypocritical everybody has ambitious to suggest that at the asway of the career when you want to take a call for you know having a peaceful life after you reached the top then I think it’s very difficult not to obstruct demolish and decimate that persons expectations at the last leg of his life and how do you reverse that how do you compensate for that loss of reputation for that tension and trauma so I am only giving you partial answers of Wishlist or menu list which is perfect and I don’t know which of these will serve perfect.
T.N: Dr. Singhvi you have had the experience of in a sense of watching observing being a part in a sense of that fraternity watching the judiciary for decades now you have seen it evolve as an institution you have seen that fall down in sense where allegation are made which shake the foundations you have the 99th constitutional amendment you have been the part of all those times what are the learning from such a crisis for the institutions allegations against Chief Justice to the Chief Justice are not new in the past few years of varying degrees these things are happening what are the learning that the institution can take to you?
Singhvi: It’s a philosophical question and I have been in a sense a part of all three because of a member of parliament I have been the part of the Legislature as a part of the legal system I have been the part of judicial organ and as a holder of a party post National spokesperson etc I have been in an indirect sense in the member of Executive I believe that the one biggest answer My answer is balance sovereignty the middle row number two the minimization of the entire media we will have this crisis earlier sixty’s seventy’s did not have it but you had sober people you have balanced people who had balance reactions and you didn’t have people like I am looking over my shoulder looking at the media will sensational if I say as to you are looking over shoulder as to media might or should not say for sensualizing that kind od approach also disturbs the whole playing field so I think the lessons are to have a very balance sober approach to escae sensationalism to maintain sovereignty and then to counsel people wisely around you that don’t be leaden into the silicious nice spicy gossips small talk which we see in the corridor everyday After all I also know I have been around despite the covid the only difference has become Virtual gossip now it’s corridor gossip but it’s gossip but the same and we all tend to believe this is the problem of today’s era we all tends to believe about the worst about appraisal not tent to reveal and delight in sovereignty so I think these tendency must be stopped lessons are you must be robust and firm and you must be able to collect it even if I don’t like you I should collectively be able to say that to be unfair to the Nangia will damage an institution so I will counsel my people don’t be unfair to Nangia now that’s more easy said to be done I am not saying that it will happen I think it will device it’s time I thing biggest problem by the way is that politics even in my third term now I’ll be 18 years I will end this term during my time itself it is so much more devising so much more suspicious you cannot Transcend barrier of politics of region the bar for example was one place when I started was completely solid as a bar today there is no bar I am very sorry to say there is a BJP bar, a Congress Bar and a third group and a forth ideology bar you can be those four thing but you should not be these four inside Supreme Court bar for example these are problem to be solved by the way of a magic bond but these are some of the issues which we have to well upon think about and drive to have that collective solidarity. Collective solidarity is just not there.
T.N: On this note free and frank as always I hope the counsel and the opinion that you shared will be watched by people in the system and of course I think they will understand and act on it you in a sense laded where without in a sense revealing as much but you said as much as you could I would like to thank you so much and I would request your time again for revisiting this issue three months down the line so that we could access what were the learning and what have you observed of this event and how it panned out over the next three months and I would want and request your attention and also your time then but Dr. Singhvi I would also like to thank you so much for sharing your time with us on Legally Speaking.
Singhvi: Thanks, Tarun and thanks for choosing a hot topic but balance is a bright Thank you.
Transcribed by Pranshi Agarwal