Enquiry by retired Supreme Court judge into Justice V. Eswaraiah Phone Call controversy uncalled for: Supreme Court

Supreme Court: In a relief to Justice V. Eswaraiah, former judge of Andhra Pradesh High Court, the bench of Ashok Bhushan* and R. Subhash Reddy, JJ found no reason to allow the enquiry by Justice R.V. Raveendran as directed by the Andhra Pradesh High Court.

The case pertains to an alleged phone conversation of Justice Eswaraiah and S. Ramakrishna, a suspended District Munsif Magistrate of Andhra Pradesh, over the conspiracy to malign the reputation of the Andhra Pradesh High Court.

BC SC ST Minority Student Federation, a registered society under the provisions of Societies Registration Act, 1860 has filed a Public Interest Litigation praying for relief relating to following of COVID-19 protocol in the Andhra Pradesh High Court.

It was, however, pleaded by the High Court that the PIL was not a genuine PIL having substantial public interest. Further, it was pleaded that “after retirement Justice V. Eswaraiah had obtained a post retirement office and after achieving the said post retirement office, he wants to support the State Government under the cover of BC association maligning the High Court.”

Later, S. Ramakrishna intervened stating that “the incumbent Government has unleashed a vicious propaganda against the judiciary to cover up its shortcomings, in which some of the retired judges like Justice V. Eswaraiah had become pawns in the hands of the Government and at their instance, under the guise of some organisations some vested interests have been filing writ petitions to undermine the honesty, integrity and majesty of the judiciary.”

It was alleged that, on 20.07.2020, the Personal Secretary of Justice V. Eswaraiah called S. Ramakrishna on his mobile phone on 20.07.2020 and told him that Justice Eswaraiah wished to speak to him and gave his phone number. During the course of conversation, Justice Eswaraiah asked him whether he was aware of the letter submitted by All India Backward Classes Federation dated 29.06.2020. The transcript of the said conversation alongwith audio recording was filed alongwith affidavit for perusal of the Court.

The High Court by impugned judgment dated 13.08.2020 passed an order requesting Justice R.V. Raveendran, a Retired Judge of this Court to hold out an enquiry to find out the genuineness/authenticity of the conversation contained in the pen drive.

In the affidavit, Justice Eswaraiah admitted that S. Ramakrishna called him over the Whatsapp on 20.07.2020. He, however, stated that he cannot say that if the conversation contained in the pen drive is the exact conversation.

“I have provided a corrected transcript of the English translation of the audio tape contained in the pen drive supplied to me, in the SLP paper book as Annexure P16 at pages 134-154. I reiterate, this is the transcription of the audio version of the conversation which Mr. Ramakrishna has filed in the High Court…………..”

Taking note of this aspect, the Supreme Court noticed that the object and purpose of directing the enquiry was to find out the authenticity/genuineness of the conversation contained in the pen drive and the petitioner having filed affidavit and admitted the conversation dated 20.07.2020 and has also filed the corrected transcript of the English translation of the audio tape, which is admitted to him, there is no reason to allow to continue the enquiry by Justice R.V. Raveendran as directed by the High Court by the impugned judgment.

The Court held that the High Court ought not to have embarked on any other enquiry in the matter except to the maintainability of the PIL.

[Justice V. Eswaraiah v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 310, decided on 12.04.2021]


*Judgment by Justice Ashok Bhushan 

For petitioner: Advocate Prashant Bhushan

For Union of India: Solicitor General Tushar Mehta

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