In a significant but rare move which shall certainly have far reaching consequences, the High Court of Andhra Pradesh has suo motu in Writ Petition No. 9166 of 2020 on October 12, 2020 preferred to invoke the writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of Constitution to protect its entity from deliberate, demeaning, degrading, desultory and derogatory attack of some of antisocial elements in Andhra Pradesh. The proceedings were taken through video conferencing. Every institution values its reputation most so why should not judiciary also value it most which it definitely does which alone explains why it has decided to act suo motu in this case.
To start with, the ball is set rolling first and foremost in para 1 of this noteworthy judgment authored by Justice Rakesh Kumar for himself and Justice J Uma Devi wherein it is stated that, “The petitioner, whose shoulder is heavily burdened with the responsibility of mainly protecting the right of a citizen guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution of India, is itself before this Court with inwardly pain due to indirect/direct attack on it by some of malefactors. Even some occupying high positions and Constitutional posts are not restraining themselves in committing the same mistake. Since the month of April 2020, this Court has noticed that a new trend has developed in the State of Andhra Pradesh to abuse the High Court and its Judges on different sites of social media and even in the interviews given to electronic media. It is well-known that Judges are not having any platform to come and say about their integrity, sincerity etc., even in a case they are otherwise abused or insulted. It is true that under the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, in a case of willful disobedience/insult to the Court, one can be dealt with; but the fact remains that penal provisions under the Contempt of Courts Act are though enough to deter persons, who have some faith in the system; but not enough to deter such malefactors in making unwarranted allegations against the Judiciary or Judges. The person occupying high posts are indulging in waging war against the judicial system in the State of Andhra Pradesh oblivious of the fact that even their entity is existed since there is democratic system in our country. In a democratic State if such war is initiated against the judicial system by persons holding high positions, certainly it will create unnecessary doubt in the mind of citizen against the judicial system, which may cripple entire system. It need not be elaborated that in the State of Andhra Pradesh, in general, people are well disciplined and law abiding. They have got faith in the system. However, it appears that the petitioner is being attacked by some corner with some oblique motive.”
While stating the purpose of the petition, it is then made amply clear in para 2 that, “The petitioner, i.e., High Court of Andhra Pradesh, at Amaravati, taking decision on administrative side, has preferred to invoke the writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, primarily with a view to protect its entity from the attack of some of antisocial elements in our State.”
More damningly, it is then revealed in para 4 that, “Even after filing of the two complaints by the Registrar General of High Court of Andhra Pradesh; one on 16.4.2020 and another complaint, dated 17.04.2020, culminating to registration of two Crimes, vide Crime No. 16 of 2020 and Crime No. 17 of 2020 registered for the offences under Sections 505(2) and 506 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, instead of decline in posting defamatory posts on social media, it started increasing. Earlier, two complaints were filed on noticing defamatory posting against one of the Hon’ble Judges of this Court, which was posted by one of the alleged accused, namely, Kondareddydhanireddy, YSRCP, shared by (i) Sudheer Pamula; and (ii) Mani Annapureddy on 15.04.2020. It is evident from running page no. 28 of the main writ petition that a complaint, dated 16.04.2020, made by the Registrar General to the Superintendent of Police, Cyber Crimes-CID, Amaravati, that such posts were made due to the reason that the Hon’ble Judge has quashed the Government Order relating to introduction of English Medium in schools. Almost, in the same context, again on 17.04.2020, a written report was submitted under the signature of the Registrar General to the Superintendent of Police, Cyber Crimes, CID, disclosing cognizable offences against the accused persons on an allegation of posting on social media. Two FIRs were lodged: one on 16.04.2020 itself; and second on 18.04.2020. Subsequently, again there were number of posts on social media against the Judges of the High Court, Hon’ble Supreme Court and including High Court itself. Again immediately thereafter, one another written report was filed by the Registrar General of the High Court on 24.05.2020 addressed to the Superintendent of Police, Cyber Crimes, CID. This time again, the Court and the Judges were abused in view of some of the orders passed by this Court.”
Most damningly which is also most troubling is that this same para 4 then further reveals the shocking details of the written report filed by B Rajasekhar who is the Registrar General on May 24, 2020 in which the subject was “Complaint regarding abusive, life threatening and intimidating postings in Social Media against the High Court and Hon’ble Judges and posting in Social Media to bring hatred, contempt, incite disaffection and ill-will against the High Court and Hon’ble Judges – seeking expeditious registration of case and action as per law – Reg.” and it is stated therein that, “I am to inform you that Registrar (Judicial) of the High Court has received various emails in the Official email account and mobile of Registrar (Judicial) with Videos and postings in the social networking media and the material reveal names of several persons including Mr. Nadigam Suresh, Mr. Amanchi Krishna Mohan, Mr. Metta Chandra Sekhar Rao, Mr. Kalanidhi Gopala Krishna, Mr. Kishore Reddy Darisa, Mr. Chandu Reddy, Mr. G. Sridhar Reddy, Mr. Jalagam Venkata Satyanarayana, Mr. Arjun Ganji, Mr. Sridhar Reddy Avuthu, Mr. Ramanjaneya Reddy, Mr. Satish Kumar, Mrs. Gowthumi K, Mr. Linga Reddy, DFr. Ravi Kumar, Mr. Samir Rathod, Mr. Seenu P, Mr. Ramesh Gunta, Mr. Chiranjeevi and others in their interviews/speeches/postings attributed motives, caste and corrupt allegations to some of the Hon’ble Supreme Court Judges, Hon’ble High Court and Hon’ble High Court Judges in delivering orders/judgments including Suo Moto PIL 124 of 2020, WP(PIL) 110 of 2020, WP(PIL) No. 101 of 2020, WP(PIL) 177 of 2019, WP(PIL) 183 of 2019 and WPNo. 8185 of 2020, they posted abusive, life threatening and intimidating postings against the Hon’ble Judges in social media as furnished in the enclosures, they also fabricated material with abusive, hatred and contemptuous contents and to cause incitement, disaffection and ill-will against the Hon’ble High Court and Hon’ble Judges. A video footage of Sakshi news reveal that Mr. Nandigam Suresh in his live speech from YCP Office, Tadepalli, attributed motive to the High Court that Mr. Chandrababu Naidu is managing the High Court, he also stated that how Mr. Chandrababu Naidu came to know the verdict prior to half an hour or 10 minutes of its pronouncement and he shall be enquired. Mr. Chandu Reddy tweeted that “total how many judges are there in High Court, all those will be cut into pieces” and also tweeted that “Everyone shall be cut into pieces. All the Judges shall be kept in a room and a Corona Patient shall be left with them.” And Mr. Kishore Reddy Darisa in a facebook message stated that “All the High Court Judges are Bastards, they are good for nothing except for sleeping with their wives. Let them arrest me and order for CBI enquiry”, further, there are identical and other abusive and intimidating messages on the social media. All these appear there is larger conspiracy against the Hon’ble Judges.
The contents in the Video Clippings/Postings also amount to contempt for trying to scandalize and lower the image of the Hon’ble Court and Hon’ble Judges.
I submit that the Registrar General also lodged reports on 16-04-2020 and 17-04-2020 for posting abusive and intimidatory material against Hon’ble Sri Justice M. Satyanarayana Murthy.
I am directed, to request you to register a case as per law, investigate into the matter, trace the culprits to punish them as per law, apprehend the culprits, cause removal of the abusive and other intimidating/offensive postings in the social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube etc. and inform the full particulars of Culprits and progress of the investigation at appropriate stages to examine and proceed as per law including to examine for initiating contempt proceedings as per law.
I am hereby enclosing the Videos and Clippings/Postings along with emails, which were received by the Registry.”
Furthermore, it is then revealed in para 5 that, “On 22.05.2020, different Benches of this Court had passed different orders in Suo moto PIL 124 of 2020, WP(PIL) 110 of 2020, WP(PIL) No. 101 of 2020, WP(PIL) 177 of 2019, WP(PIL) 183 of 2019 and WP No. 8185 of 2020, which were passed against the orders and actions of the State Government and its functionaries. Immediately thereafter, the social media was flooded with objectionable posts. Even the persons occupying high position went to the media and gave interviews against the High Court and its Judges, that too, from the party office belonging to a political party, which is in power. Accordingly, this was the reason for filing written report/complaint by the Registrar General for registering FIR.”
Briefly stated, the key point of para 19 is that, “Accordingly, without going into the merit of the case or without recording any observations against either of the parties, we propose to direct to entrust all the matters to an agency, namely, Central Bureau of Investigation, which is fairly fit, having wider scope for investigation as agreed by all the parties.”
As a corollary, it is then stated in para 20 that, “Accordingly, this Court directs to entrust all the FIRs, namely, Crime Nos. 16 of 2020; 17 of 2020; 26 of 2020; 27 of 2020; 28 of 2020; 29 of 2020; 30 of 2020; 31 of 2020; 9 of 2020; 10 of 2020; 11 of 2020; and, 12 of 2020 of Cyber Crimes-CID, Amaravati, to the Central Bureau of Investigation through its Director Investigation in all the aforesaid FIRs stands transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation. The CBI, through its Director, is required to take up investigation in all the aforesaid FIRs forthwith and proceed with the same in accordance with law.”
Most significantly, the Bench then holds in para 21 that, “The Registry is directed to handover the entire material including writ petition, I.A. No. 20 of 2020, with entire enclosures, which includes counter affidavits and other relevant documents as certified to be true copies of them, to the CBI as and when approached. It goes without saying that on examination of materials available on record, if other materials disclose cognizable offences, it would be necessary for the CBI to register more FIRs, investigate and bring the same to its logical end. While conducting investigation, it would be necessary to examine as to whether such attacks on Judiciary were made as a result of larger conspiracy or not. If it is noticed that it was due to the result of larger conspiracy, the CBI is required to take appropriate action against such culprits irrespective of the post and position. It goes without saying that the CBI immediately after taking up investigation may take steps so that all the defamatory posts available on social media, i.e., private respondents, may struck down and may also take steps to block such users in accordance with law. The Registry is directed to forthwith communicate a copy of this order to the Director, Central Bureau of Investigation, New Delhi.”
Going forward, it is then held in para 22 that, “The CBI is further directed to submit its report in sealed cover to this Court within eight weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order.”
Finally, it is held in para 23 that, “The Government of Andhra Pradesh, through its Chief Secretary as well as the Director General of Police are directed to ensure full cooperation and assistance and provide all logistic support, if asked by the CBI.” Last para 24 holds that, “Put up the matter on 14.12.2020.”
We cannot be oblivious of the irrefutable fact that this notable judgment comes days after Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy wrote a complaint to the Chief Justice of India – Sharad Arvind Bobde alleging that some High Court Judges are attempting to protect the interests of Opposition party – the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). Not just this, Jagan even levelled impropriety by Justice NV Ramana who is next in line after Bobde to be CJI. This makes it all the more serious!
To conclude, truth must come out. This directly concerns the prestige, reputation and image of the judiciary. It is most distressing to see that such serious and scandalous allegations have been levelled against Judges. Andhra Pradesh High Court has certainly taken the right decision in this regard by ordering CBI inquiry into cases registered for defamatory statement against judiciary by YSRCP leaders. There can certainly be no denying it!