The judiciary has been witnessing some of the darkest times in history recently. There have been many allegations on the judges and their decisions. The judiciary was accused of acting arbitrarily. The state and the government are overpowered and are looming over the judiciary and jeopardizing its powers and functions. In such a scenario, there are very few people who stand up to the values and principles guiding the judiciary. Judges constitute those people. Questioning the actions of judges is equal to questioning the sanctity of the judiciary. This grilling should rather be targeted to the government and the institution as a whole. It is true that the judiciary has been influenced, but the allegations keep going in the wrong direction. The allegations do not seem to have a limit. Judges have become a target of criticism since the Prashant Bhushan case. While Prashant Bhushan’s complaint was concerned about access to justice, others criticize the judges in particular; they have nothing to do with the judiciary.
On October 10 the principal advisor of Jagan Mohan Reddy went public with the letter written to the CJI. The letter leveled some scandalous allegations against the sitting judge, Justice Ramana. He is one of the seniormost and topmost judges and next in line to be the chief justice. This particular letter is an unprecedented tool used against a sitting judge in this democracy. This situation declared war between the two constitutional bodies. The allegations were grave and pathetic. The chief minister made three major allegations against justice. The very first one is that he has been influencing the decisions taken by the High court in Andhra Pradesh. The high court has given some groundbreaking judgments recently which were against the government. The second allegation is that Justice Ramana is very close to the former chief minister of the state, and this has influenced the administration of justice in the state. The third allegation is that there have been some questionable land transactions in the capital area, which include the daughters of Justice Ramana before it was declared capital area. The letter came as a result of the judiciary’s decision on the pending criminal cases against legislators. It is not a secret that the chief minister has been accused of many criminal cases and has been arrested also. The judge could not speak in his defense except a comment that India is in need of a free judiciary. Neither did any of the authorities comment on the issue. But there has been a lot of uproar in the legal community. There are many pleas and petitions filed demanding contempt charges to be filed against the chief minister.
The allegations made are baseless. The timing of the allegations makes them too dramatic and spurious. After the SC gave its judgment on fast-tracking criminal proceedings against the legislators, all the politicians were shaking. So was Jagan as he has a criminal past in assets and fraud case. There have been many charge sheets filed by the CBI. After the above judgment, he was summoned by the courts, but he stated some technical reasons and inconvenience to attend the summoning. While that is all a topic for another day, the CM has gone too far with the judiciary and made allegations against a sitting judge. It is an unprecedented move. It sure has many consequences. Even the petitioner of the MP slam case asked the Supreme Court to take complete actions against Jagan. Judges do have immunity from some criticisms. There is the Contempt of Court Act which protects them from such allegations. The question here is would a political figure fear the contempt. Judicial officers are considered to be the representation of the judiciary, and they should be respected. In such scenarios, the trust in the judiciary is lost, and also its authority is shaken. It all trickles down to the allegations.
Let us analyze the allegations. The first one talks about a biased judiciary in the state. If the court stands for poor farmers and people, no one knew that it was biased. When the governments are using their powers arbitrarily at the cost of people’s welfare court is the only refuge. It is an independent and impartial body that will always stand by the citizens. Knowing the present situation existing in the state, any person can say that the state of Andhra Pradesh is on the brink of civil war. The civil unrest has been continuing for months. There is a lot of oppression and bias prevailing in the state. In this background, the people turned to the only refuge, the high court to protect their rights within the state. The high court decided against the government, which gave the effect to the first allegation of the judge influencing the High court bench.
The second and third are interrelated. There have been many transactions during the capital formation period in Andhra Pradesh. The real estate boom was at its peak. There have not been any illegal transactions at that time as all the transaction money was going to the farmers. So what is the big deal in the judge’s daughters buying some land? We don’t know how this will affect Justice Ramana’s reputation or his role in administering justice. Nevertheless, this letter and publicizing it is seen as a blatant attempt to shake the trust of the public in the judiciary. All the bar associations condemned such an attempt by the CM. It is like a revenge mechanism for the CM. As his reputation was lowered in the eyes of the public, he wanted to target the judiciary. Many call it a constitutionally improper move. And it has disturbed the power separation between the executive and the judiciary.
We believe and have accepted the independent and impartial judiciary. The judiciary is considered the highest authority in the country for protecting the rights of the citizens and safeguarding the Constitution. But that authority has been shaken with these allegations. They say that the confidence of the public in the judiciary will diminish due to these allegations. We should know better than this. It is due to the people that an accused is ruling a state and an accused is blaming the judge. The judges are trying to protect the institutions of the country with their decisions. Such allegation hampers the administration of justice. The CM should have known better than to publicize the issue; he should have waited for the CJI’s response. This an attempt of bench hunting and terrorizing the courts. Not to mention the mysterious calls received by the bar associations. There was a time when the judiciary shook the position of sitting prime minister without a second thought. But now, times have changed, and the judiciary should fear to punish a criminal. As Justice Ramana told, we need a fearless judiciary. The judiciary should take strong actions against those who shackle its authority.
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