The Supreme Court Monday refused to stay the Andhra Pradesh High Court order which directed probe into an alleged phone conversation between its former judge Justice (retd) V Eswaraiah and a suspended trial court magistrate. Justice Eswaraiah admitted that it is his private conversation which does not disclose any crime and therefore does not warrant any investigation but transcript of the conversation is a bit incorrect.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah asked Justice Eswaraiah to file an affidavit on the conversation and the transcript, and said it will take up the matter on January 18 and pass orders. "Learned counsel for the petitioner does not dispute the conversation. He prays that he be permitted to file an affidavit of the petitioner with regard to above conversation," the bench said.
During the hearing, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Justice Eswaraiah, said, “How can a private conversation be made a subject of inquiry? What is the crime in having a private conversation, even if it's about the conduct of a Supreme Court judge? Without even hearing me, the High Court had ordered an inquiry? How can that be done? He sought issuance of notice and stay of the inquiry saying that the probe is completely out of order.
The bench asked senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for an intervenor Mellam Bhagya Rao, national general secretary of the Dalit Bahujan Front, as to what he had to say on the issue. Sibal said he wanted that a notice be issued on the intervention application and there is nothing private about this conversation. This is a motivated attack on the system. What is private about this conversation? Senior advocate Harish Salve and advocate Vipin Nair, appearing for another intervenor advocate P Samuel John, said the applicant is troubled by the systematic series of attacks against the judicial institutions of Andhra Pradesh.
He said it's an effort to uphold the independence of judiciary and judicial institutions in the state. Bhushan added that the conversation is between two people. Sibal alleged that It's a motivated attack. The bench asked Bhushan whether he admits that this conversation had taken place.
Bhushan replied that the transcript is a bit incorrect, but it did take place. The bench asked Bhushan to file the correct transcript and said let us see what you have stated about this conversation and what does your affidavit say. The top court told Sibal said that it will not hear any intervention right now in the matter. Justice Eswaraiah in his petition alleged that the incident was a serious conspiracy against the judiciary. The plea sought a stay of the high court's order for the enquiry on the ground that it was unwarranted and illegal and has been passed without a notice to Justice Eswaraiah and has caused undue harassment to him.
The high court, in its order, had requested former Supreme Court judge Justice RV Raveendran to inquire into the matter. The phone conversation, according to the plea purportedly pertained to the corruption allegations in the Amaravati land scam. The former judge said the high court's order was made on the basis of an application for reopening and intervention filed by the suspended District Munsif Magistrate (S Ramakrishna) in an unrelated PIL seeking implementation of the COVID guidelines in the court building and premises.
The order for the enquiry into the conversation was made by the high court on the basis of the intervention and without even issuing notice to the former judge, the appeal said. The petition filed through Bhushan said that the special leave petition has been filed against the August 13, last year order of the High Court ordering an investigation into a private phone conversation between the petitioner and a suspended District Munsif Magistrate of Andhra Pradesh.
The appeal said the high court stated that "the contents of the conversation disclose a 'serious conspiracy' against the Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh, a senior sitting judge of the Supreme Court and thereby to destabilize the judiciary. The plea said the former high court judge, in the alleged phone conversation, had merely mentioned his knowledge about allegations of misconduct and terming such a conversation to be a kind of conspiracy was unwarranted.
The plea said the transcript of the alleged conversation, provided by Ramakrishna, was inaccurate and hence, misleading with respect to various aspects of the talk. It said in the conversation there was a reference of an enquiry by the cabinet sub-committee regarding dubious property transactions for unlawful gain during the previous regime in Andhra Pradesh.
Recently, the apex court, in a separate matter, had stayed the High Court direction restraining the media from publishing news regarding an FIR lodged on alleged irregularities in land transactions in Amaravati. The YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government had earlier constituted the 10-member SIT, headed by a Deputy Inspector General of Police- rank IPS officer, on February 21 last year, to conduct a comprehensive investigation into various alleged irregularities, particularly the land deals in the Amaravati Capital Region, during the previous Chandrababu Naidu regime.