Andhra Pradesh High Court: Taking a stern stand against several instances of abuse of power by the Andhra Pradesh State Government, the Division Bench of Rakesh Kumar and D. Ramesh, JJ., reprimanded the Government for its high- handedness in dealing with matters concerning the rights of the people of Andhra Pradesh and making attempts at subduing the constitutional bodies such as the Legislative Council, State Election Commission and the Andhra Pradesh High Court itself. Rakesh Kumar, J., who authored the instant Order, minced no words while berating the State Government’s arbitrary actions- “The State by way of filing the interlocutory application, has ventured to malign the image of one of the Members of this Bench (Hon’ble Sri Justice Rakesh Kumar). It is very difficult for me to swallow the allegation of deviating from the principle of impartiality. With a view to uphold the majesty of law and repose the confidence of citizen in the judicial system, such endeavour made by the State is considered as malicious and cannot be approved. If such petitions are entertained, it will amount to allowing the party for hunting the Bench…. the Court cannot be frightened by any such action of the State”.
Background and Trajectory of the Issue: The writ petition WP (PIL) 127/2020 was filed with a prayer to declare the action of the Government of Andhra Pradesh/ Municipal Administration and Urban Development Department in issuing Notice Inviting Offer to an outright sale of land/land assets available at Guntur and Visakhapatnam for Mission Build AP on “as is where is” basis through E-auction, as illegal and arbitrary. The writ was first taken up by the Division Bench comprising A.V. Sesha Sai and B. Krishna Mohan, JJ., and while granting time for filing a counter-affidavit, passed an interim order restraining finalization of the bidding process. In the meanwhile, other similar writ petitions were filed questioning the act of the State regarding selling/transferring of the Government land through auction. On 16-12-2020, Sudhakar Reddy, A.A.G., filed a petition for recusal of Rakesh Kumar, J., from the case on the ground that the Judge had made an observation while hearing the matter which implied that he will ‘declare a break down of constitutional machinery in the State and hand over the administration to the Central Government’.
Observations: While denying that the aforementioned observation was ever made by him, Rakesh Kumar, J., sternly noted that the instant application is a derogatory and contemptuous act by the State Government. The function of the High Court while exercising jurisdiction under Art. 226 of the Constitution, is to protect and enforce the fundamental right of a citizen if it is infringed or taken away by the State. This is the main protection lying in the hands of the citizen against the unauthorized or illegal act of a State. If the Court has doubts over any issue, then it is its right to ask certain questions. “Honesty, integrity, sincerity, fearlessness and impartiality all are essence of judicial system in general and Judges in particular. If any question is raised without any reasonable basis, the Judge has every right to refer to any undisputed fact even not on record of the said proceeding in his defence”.
Rakesh Kumar, J., went on to make some specific and scathing observations regarding the current attitude of maligning the Judiciary, and the Andhra Govt.’s malicious intent towards the constitutional bodies, especially the A.P. HC. Some of the notable observations are as follows-
- The Court noted that how a Judge never has a media platform to showcase their impartiality and fearless. “We cannot even go to media for our defence.”
- The Court also noted “A very disturbing trend has developed in our system. If one is influential, powerful, i.e., both in money and muscle, he feels that he is having every privilege to do anything as per his convenience and to the peril of system or poor citizen”.
- Regarding the protection of a citizen’s fundamental rights, the Court observed that, “being a Judge of a High Court, it is our primary duty to come forward and examine the right of citizen in which cause of action even partly arose within the jurisdiction of such High Court, and endeavour to get such right enforced”.
- Justice Kumar further noted the instance wherein the CM had proposed to abolish the Legislative Council itself when they did not agree to proceed with the tune of the Legislative Assembly’s decision regarding the establishment of three capitals in one State
- Rakesh Kumar, J., also considered whether the letter to Chief Justice of India by the Andhra CM containing allegations against Chief Justices of Telangana and AP HC may have given undue advantage to the CM and people may deduce that the recent transfers of the Chief Justices may have resulted due to the letter. The Court emphasized on the need of transparency in the judicial transfers.
- Following up on the abovementioned observation, Justice Kumar also noted a plethora of cases against the Chief Minister filed by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate. The Judge noted that the recent transfers are sure to give undue relief to the CM by way of causing delay in hearing of the matters.
With the aforementioned observations, Justice Kumar stated that, “It appears that in the aforesaid background, now in the present proceeding, the State by way of filing the interlocutory application, has ventured to malign the image of one of the Members of this Bench”. Accordingly, the prayer for recusal was rejected as, “such prayer is totally untenable and malicious. If Court starts entertaining such petitions; in no case, the Court can be allowed to dispense justice”. In the concluding remarks, the Court stated that the above observations are specifically for considering the prayer for recusal made in this interlocutory application and not on the merits of the case.[Special Officer v. Thota Suresh Babu,2020 SCC OnLine AP 2143, decided on 30-12-2020]
Sucheta Sarkar, Editorial Assistant has put this story together