Case BriefsSupreme 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

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy, JJ., has set aside the order of High Court of Judicature for Andhra Pradesh at Hyderabad and, thereby restored the findings of Trial Court.

Background

 In the instant case, a claim for partition and division was made by the appellant in four equal shares amongst herself and her three siblings, who were arrayed as defendants 1, 2 and 3. The property was left by deceased step-mother of the appellant. Defendant 4, brother of step-mother of the appellant, alleged that his sister had sold Item 1 of Schedule A of the plaint to Defendant 15 under an agreement for sale dated 05-11-1976; and that she had also executed a Will dated 15-06-1978 in favour of her mother and an attendant, defendants 14 and 13 respectively. The appellant denied and disputed the alleged agreement for sale as also the alleged Will.

Findings of the Courts below

 The Trial Court held that both the documents, of the alleged agreement for sale and of the alleged Will, were false and fabricated. The Court observed that the deceased, who was only 45 years of age at the time of her death, would never choose to bequeath the major part of property to her mother, who was about 80 years of age. It was observed that suggestions about the deceased being in her high level of indebtedness were not correct as the defendant could not point out the names of creditors and could not say as to how much was discharged. On contrary, the High Court had affirmed the findings of the Trial Court in relation to Will in question and has held that the Will was not valid. However, it had reversed the findings of the Trial Court in relation to alleged agreement for sale and held that the same was binding on the appellant. It was also ordered that the property forming the subject matter of the said agreement would not be available for partition.

 Observations and Considerations

 In the backdrop of the aforementioned facts, the Court formed three points for determination in the instant appeal:

Whether suit for partition filed was not maintainable for want of relief of declaration against the agreement for sale deed?

The Court clarified that the expression “declaration”, for the purpose of a suit for partition, refers to the declaration of the plaintiff’s share in the suit properties. It was observed that the appellant had not shown awareness about any agreement for sale initially, and later on, the appellant did raise a claim for sale deed being frivolous.

It was also observed that, as per Section 54 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882, an agreement for sale of immoveable property does not, of itself, create any interest in or charge on such property. A person having an agreement for sale in his favour did not get any right in the property, except the right of obtaining sale deed on that basis and the alleged agreement for sale did not invest the vendee with any such right that the appellant could not have maintained her claim for partition in respect of the properties left by her deceased mother without seeking declaration against the agreement.

What is the effect and consequence of not bringing the legal representatives of defendant who expired during the pendency of appeal in the High Court on record?

Order XXII, Rule 1 of CPC lays down that the death of an appellant or respondent shall not cause the appeal to abate if the right to sue survives. The Court clarified that the same procedure would apply in appeal where one of the several appellants or respondents dies and right to sue survives to the surviving parties alone. Reliance was placed on State of Punjab v. Nathu Ram,(1962) 2 SCR 636, wherein it was held that,  “if the court can deal with the matter in controversy so far as regards the rights and interests of the appellant and the respondents other than the deceased respondent, it has to proceed with the appeal and decide it. It is only when it is not possible for the court to deal with such matters, that it will have to refuse to proceed further with the appeal and therefore dismiss it.” The Court held that, the instant case could definitely proceed even in the absence of the legal representatives of defendant 2 because in case of success of this appeal, there would be no likelihood of any inconsistent decree vis-à-vis defendant 2 coming into existence. The decree of the Trial Court had been in favour of the plaintiff and defendants 1 to 3 and the result of success of this appeal would only be of restoration of the decree of the Trial Court, which would be of no adverse effect on the estate of the deceased defendant 2.

Whether the High Court was justified in reversing the findings of the Trial Court in relation to the said agreement for sale?

The Court noticed that the two documents were intrinsically intertwined, particularly

because it was suggested by the contesting defendants that in the Will, apart from making bequest, the deceased also directed her mother (legatee) to execute a registered sale deed in favour of defendant 15 after receiving the balance sale consideration from him as per the agreement executed in his favour; and that the deceased also directed her mother to discharge the debts. This unmistakable inter-mixing of the two documents had been the primary reason that the Trial Court examined the matters related with them together, while indicating that to give a colour of reality to the Will and to show that the deceased was highly indebted to others which compelled her to sell the property, the suggestions were made about sale to the husband of the deceased’s sister. The High Court had missed out this fundamental feature of the case that two documents, Will and agreement for sale, as put forward by the contesting defendants could not be analysed independent of each other.

When the Will was found surrounded by suspicious circumstances, the agreement must also be rejected as a necessary corollary.

While examining preponderance of probabilities about the existence of such an agreement for sale, the overall relationship of the parties, the beneficiaries of the alleged agreement and their conduct could not be kept at bay. The Court stated, “If the story of indebtedness of the deceased goes in doubt, the suspicions surround not only the Will but agreement too.” Trial Court was right in questioning that if at all any such agreement was executed on 05-11-1976, there was no reason that the vendee did not get the sale document registered for a long length of time because the deceased expired 1½ years later.

Decision

It was held that the Trial Court had examined the matter in its correct perspective and had rightly come to the conclusion that the agreement for sale was as invalid and untrustworthy as was the Will. The findings of Trial Court, based on proper analysis and sound reasoning, called for no interference. On the other hand, the High Court had been clearly in error in interfering with the findings of the Trial Court in relation to the agreement in. Therefore, the Court restored the decree of the Trial Court with further directions that the appellant should be entitled to the costs of the litigation in the High Court and in this Court from the contesting respondents. [Venigalla Koteswaramma v. Malampati Suryamba, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 26, decided on 19-01-2021]

Appointments & TransfersNews

Transfer Order

President, after consultation with the Chief Justice of India, transfers Justice Arup Kumar Goswami, Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court, as Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court and directs him to assume charge of the office of the Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court.

ORDER


Ministry of Law and Justice

[Notification dt. 31-12-2020]

 

Appointments & TransfersNews

Transfer Orders

President transfers Justice Jitendra Kumar Maheshwari, Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court, as Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court and directs him to assume charge of the office of the Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court.

ORDERS


Ministry of Law & Justice

[Press Release dt. 31-12-2020]

Appointments & TransfersNews

Transfer Orders of Justice Joymalya Bagchi of Calcutta High Court as a Judge Andhra Pradesh

President, after consultation with the Chief Justice of India, is pleased to transfer Justice Joymalya Bagchi, Judge of the Calcutta High Court, as a Judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court and directs him to assume charge of his office in the Andhra Pradesh High Court.

ORDER


Ministry of Law and Justice

[Notification dt. 31-12-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Andhra Pradesh High Court: Battu Devanand, J., while addressing the instant matter, observed that,

The government is not supposed to spend public money as per their whims and fancies as public money is accrued from the payment of the taxpayers.

Discontinuation of Pensions

175 Petitioners filed the petition seeking direction declaring the action of respondents in discontinuing pensions to them as illegal, arbitrary, discriminatory and against the rules governing the distribution of pensions and direct all the respondents to distribute arrears of pension to the petitioners and continue to pay them thereafter.

Another petitioner consisting of 5 petitioners filed the petition against the respondent’s action to stop old aged/widow pensions.

Decision

The Government of Andhra Pradesh vide its order said that the Government of Andhra Pradesh is implementing various pension schemes as part of its welfare programmes for most needy and vulnerable people i.e., the persons in old age, widows, people with disabilities and weavers to provide them some succor.

Court stated that on perusal of the Government Order, it is clear that as part of welfare programmes the Government is implementing various social security pension schemes for the benefit of needy and vulnerable sections of the people to provide them some succor.

“…attempt of the government to implement these “Social security pension schemes” to provide the people belong to vulnerable sections to provide some succor is undoubtedly laudable.”

Bench emphasized the fact that the Government is the trustee of public money and is empowered to utilize the public money in a proper manner for the benefit of the public at large.

Supreme Court’s decision in Ramana Dayaram Shetty v. International Airport Authority of India, (1979) 3 SCC 489 was also referred, wherein the following was held:

“The discretion of the government has been held to be not unlimited in that the government cannot give or withhold largess in its arbitrary discretion or at its sweet will.”

Public Money

Further, the High Court also noted the fact that earlier crores of public money was spent on different activities in the State of Andhra Pradesh.

In view of the above Court stated that,

Did any person in the State ask the State Government to spend a thousand crores of rupees for organising “Godavari and Krishna Pushkaralu”? 

Did any Christian ask for “CHRISTMAS KANUKALU ?”

Did any Muslim request for “RAMJAN THOFA?”

At present, thousands of crores of rupees are being sent under various pogrammes stating that it is for the welfare of the people. 

One has to question himself whether the public money is being utilized properly as it seems to be.

Unreasonable to stop payment of meager amount

Hence, the Bench held that Court is of the opinion that while spending crores of rupees of public money for all the programmes as stated above, it is unreasonable to stop payment of meager amount being paid towards social security pension in favour of the petitioners.

Court to fortify its view cited the Supreme Court decision in, Raghunath Thakur v. State of Bihar, (1989) 1 SCC 229, wherein the following was held:

“…a person adversely affected by order has right of being heard and making representations against order, even though rules do not provide so expressly”.

Social Security

Concluding with its’ analysis, Court held that stopping payment of social security to the petitioners without conducting any enquiry or without issuing any notice is illegal, arbitrary, discriminatory and against the object of the social security pension scheme and against the principles of natural justice.

Two directions have been passed by the Bench in the above petitions:

  • Respondents are directed to make payment of pension to the petitioners from the month when it was stopped to till date within a period of 15 days.
  • Respondents are directed to continue the payment of the pension every month.

[Seepana Govindamma v. State of Andhra Pradesh, WP No. 21104 of 2019, decided on 08-09-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Andhra Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench of M. Satyanarayana Murthy and Lalitha Kanneganti, JJ., ordered an enquiry into a conversation contained in pen-drive disclosing some material about designing a plot against the Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh and another sitting Judge of the Supreme Court.

Court stated that,

“Unfortunately, today it is an unpleasant or gloomy day in the history of High Court of Andhra Pradesh, because the High court itself has to ward-off the brazen onslaught from the third parties to demean the prestige of the pristine judicial institution in the eye of litigant public.”

Audio conversation contained in the pen drive disclosed that it was a serious conspiracy against the Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court by designing a plot and sent a petition by the person who had a conversation with a person named S. Ramakrishna allegedly, but signed by Secretary of BC/SC/ST Association.

The said person insisted on Sri S. Ramakrishna to collect material against another senior most sitting Judge of the Supreme Court to mar his future career.

Bench stated that since the plot is designed against the Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court with malafide intention unless the authenticity of the contents is established, Court cannot proceed against anyone.

Further, the Court observed that the way as to how the conversation between the two persons took place, would prima facie establish that there was a conspiracy against the Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh and Senior-most Judge of Supreme Court, pernicious acts of the person who made such allegation to be discouraged. Otherwise, the public may lose faith in the Courts.

Conversation discloses use of intemperate language against two senior most sitting Judges of the Supreme Court and it is a matter of serious concern.

Such conversation will certinly crumble the confidence of the public on Courts and system itself.

Further, the Court added that in the judicial process, it is the solemn duty of the Court to unravel the truth. In the present matter, only way to unravel the truth is to order necessary enquiry.

Truth should be the Guiding Star in the entire judicial process.

Hence, Court found the present case to be appropriate for ordering enquiry to find out the authenticity of the conversation contained in the pen-drive.

Therefore, Justice Raveendran, retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India is requested to hold an enquiry to find out the authenticity of the conversation, with regard to the plot designed against the Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh and being designed against senior most sitting Judges of the Supreme Court and undisclosed interest of the third parties.

Director of CBI and Director of Intelligence Bureau are directed to depute responsible officers of the department to collect information from the agencies pertaining to the conversation contained in the pen-drive and other material collected from the Registry and submit the same to Justice R.V. Raveendran, retired Judge of Supreme Court of India.

Matter to be listed in 4 weeks.[BC, SC, ST Minority Student Federation v. Union Of India, 2020 SCC OnLine AP 652, decided on 13-08-2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

High Court of Andhra Pradesh – Suspension of functioning of the High Court, and Metropolitan Sessions Judge’s Unit, Vijayawada, till 28.06.2020

Functioning of the Andhra Pradesh High Court is suspended till 28.06.2020 (Sunday) due to outbreak of COVID-19. The work of Metropolitan Sessions Judge’s Unit, Vijayawada, Krishna District, is also suspended till 28.06.2020.

NOTIFICATION


Andhra Pradesh High Court

Notification dt. 25-06-2020

Appointments & TransfersNews

President appoints following to be the Judges of Andhra Pardesh High Court in the order of seniority, with effect from the date they assume charge of their respective offices:

  • Boppudi Krishna Mohan
  • Kanchireddy Suresh Reddy
  • Kanneganti Lalithakumari alias Lalitha

Ministry of Law and Justice

[Notification dt. 01-05-2020]

Appointments & TransfersNews

President appoints the following as the Judges of the Andhra Pradesh High Court:

  • Rao Raghunandan Rao
  • Battu Devanand
  • Donadi Ramesh
  • Ninala Jayasurya

Ministry of Law and Justice 

[Notification dt. 10-01-2020]

Appointments & TransfersNews

Proposal for the appointment of following 4 Advocates as Judges of the Andhra Pradesh High Court and 3 Advocates as Judges of the Telangana High Court:

1 Shri R. Raghunandan Rao (A.P.),
2 Shri T. Vinod Kumar (Telangana),
3 Shri Battu Devanand (A.P.),
4 Shri D. Ramesh (A.P.),
5 Shri A. Abhishek Reddy (Telangana),
6 Shri N. Jayasurya (A.P.) and
7 Shri K. Lakshman (Telangana)

On the basis of interaction, material on record and having regard to all relevant factors, the Collegium comprising of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and S.A. Bobde and N.V. Ramana, JJ. is of the considered view that S/Shri (1) R. Raghunandan Rao, (2) T. Vinod Kumar, (3) Battu Devanand, (4) D. Ramesh, (5) A. Abhishek Reddy, (6) N. Jayasurya and (7) K. Lakshman are suitable for being elevated to the High Court Bench.

Therefore, in view of the above, the Collegium resolves to recommend that:

(i) S/Shri (1) R. Raghunandan Rao, (2) Battu Devanand, (3) D. Ramesh and (4) N. Jayasurya be appointed as Judges of the Andhra Pradesh High Court. Their inter se seniority be fixed as per the existing practice; and

(ii) S/Shri (1) T. Vinod Kumar, (2) A. Abhishek Reddy and (3) K. Lakshman be appointed as Judges of the Telangana High Court. Their inter se seniority be fixed as per the existing practice.


[Collegium Resolution dt. 25-07-2019]

Supreme Court of India

Appointments & TransfersNews

President appoints the following as the Judges of Andhra Pradesh High Court:

  • Shri Cheekati Manvendranath Roy
  • Shri Matam Venkata Ramana,

in that order of seniority, with effect from the date, they assume charge of their respective offices.


[Notification dt. 12-06-2019]

Ministry of Law and Justice

Appointments & TransfersNews

Appointment of following four Judicial Officers as Judges of the Andhra Pradesh High Court and three Judicial Officers as Judges of the Telangana High Court:

1 Ms. B.S. Bhanumathi (A.P.)
2 Shri Ch. Manavendranath Roy (A.P.)
3 Smt. P. Sree Sudha (Telangana)
4 Shri M.Venkata Ramana (A.P.)
5 Smt. C. Sumalatha (Telangana)
6 Shri A. Hari Haranadha Sarma (A.P.)
7 Shri N. Tukaramji (Telangana)

In order to ascertain suitability of the above-named recommendees mentioned at Sl. Nos. 3, 5 and 7 above, for elevation to the Telangana High Court, we have consulted our colleague conversant with the affairs of the Telangana High Court.

As regards recommendees at Sl. Nos. 1, 2, 4, and 6 above, there is no sitting Judge in the Supreme Court outside the Collegium for being consulted for this purpose.

“The Collegium is of the considered view that S/Shri (1) Ch. Manavendranath Roy, and (2) M. Venkata Ramana (mentioned at Sl. Nos. 2 and 4 above) are suitable for being appointed as Judges of the Andhra Pradesh High Court.”

As regards (1) Ms. B.S. Bhanumathi, (2) Smt. P. Sree Sudha, (3) Smt. C. Sumalatha (4) Shri A. Hari Haranadha Sarma, and (5) Shri N. Tukaramji (mentioned at Sl. Nos.1, 3, 5, 6, and 7 above), consideration of the proposal for their elevation is deferred for the present.

Collegium resolves to recommend that S/Shri (1) Ch. Manavendranath Roy, and (2) M. Venkata Ramana, Judicial Officers, be appointed as Judges of the Andhra Pradesh High Court. Their inter se seniority be fixed as per the existing practice.


Collegium Resolutions

[Dated: 15-04-2019]

Supreme Court of India

Appointments & TransfersNews

Andhra Pradesh High Court: Justice Vikram Nath, Judge, Allahabad High Court as Chief Justice in Andhra Pradesh High Court

Justice Vikram Nath is the senior-most Judge from Allahabad High Court and is functioning in that High Court since his elevation. Having regard to all relevant factors, the Collegium finds Mr Justice Vikram Nath suitable in all respects for being appointed as Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court. The Collegium resolves to recommend accordingly.

While making the above recommendation the Collegium is conscious of the fact consequent upon the proposed appointment there will be three Chief Justices from the Allahabad High Court, which is the largest High Court in the country with the sanctioned strength of 160 Judges.


[Dated: 8-04-2019]

Collegium Resolutions

Supreme Court of India

Appointments & TransfersNews

The President, after consultation with the Chief Justice of India, is pleased to transfer Shri Justice Sarasa Venkatanarayana Bhatti, Judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, as a Judge of the Kerala High Court and to direct him to assume charge of his office in the Kerala High Court on or before 19th March, 2019.

[Notification dt. 05-03-2019]

Ministry of Law and Justice

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Andhra Pradesh High Court: While dealing with the question relating to grant of Arms license, the Court quashed the order of State Government of rejecting the application of Petitioner for grant of Arms License.

The Petitioner in this case had filed an application before the Commissioner of Police, Cyberabad Commissionerate which was rejected. The State Government also rejected the application in its appeal phase. Learned counsel for the petitioner contended that the impugned order is highly illegal, arbitrary, unreasonable, violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India and opposed to the very spirit and object of the provisions of the Arms Act, 1959. But the learned Government Pleader vehemently contended that the impugned rejection order is in accordance with the provisions of the Arms Act, 1959. The bench comprising of A. V. Sesha Sai J minutely studied various sections of The Arms Act and analyzed that the  intention of the legislature is that the licensing authority should apply his mind while considering the request of the applicant for grant of Arms License and to arrive at a decision independently, taking into account facts and circumstances of the case and basing on the material available. The Court finally concluded that  the said order, is opposed to and not in conformity with the provisions of law, as such, the said order cannot be sustained.

 The Court also took account of the test to be applied by the licensing authority in considering grant of arms license which was laid down in another Judgment that is  whether the applicant has established his credentials as a law abiding person leading a peaceful life without any criminal record and whether any circumstances exist by which it can be reasonably presumed that there is a potential danger of misuse of the weapon leading to breach of peace and safety of the society. Once these two tests are satisfied an application for grant of license shall not ordinarily be rejected.  In the instant case, the State Government did not consider properly the relevant provisions of the legislation and the material available on record and the principles laid down in the above referred judgment and was thus quashed. [Kolan narasimha Reddy v.  State of Andhra Pradesh 2016 SCC OnLine Hyd 153, decided on 14.06.2016]