regular-article-logo Thursday, 18 April 2024

Hard truths: executive and judiciary

The role of the Andhra CM in transferring high court judges, and closing cases against him could make the justice system lose credibility in people’s minds

The Editorial Board Published 05.01.21, 12:10 AM
Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy.

Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy. File picture

If the mixing of politics and religion is dangerous in a secular country, the slightest suspicion that the executive in a democracy is encroaching on the territory of justice is equally so. The Andhra Pradesh High Court has pronounced strongly against what it perceived as such encroachment by the chief minister of the state, Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, and his government. The two-judge bench of Rakesh Kumar and D. Ramesh was hearing a case challenging the auction of government land to private parties. Reportedly stating that the chief minister was undermining the functioning of the court, the bench referred to his letter to the Chief Justice of India, complaining against the functioning of the Andhra Pradesh High Court. Since the two chief justices of the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana High Courts were transferred, the bench expressed its disapproval, as that might look as though the Supreme Court collegium were responding to the chief minister’s letter. The justice system could thus lose credibility in people’s minds. More, the transfers were to the chief minister’s advantage, because the hearings against him would be delayed. In September, the police had closed a number of cases against him, calling them ‘false’. The chief minister, the court reportedly pointed out, had also complained against a senior Supreme Court judge, who had asked that all cases against legislators be completed within a year.

The issues raised here are deeply unsettling. The high court reportedly remarked that the courts were ‘under attack’ from people in power; this laid bare the connection with corruption. The implied contempt for the system in Mr Reddy’s complaint to the Supreme Court was indirectly touched upon, while the Andhra Pradesh High Court judge, Mr Kumar, responded sharply to the government’s attempt, based allegedly on falsehoods, to have him recuse himself on grounds of bias from the case he was hearing. He also said that if there were a gap of a year before judges were reassigned after retiring, no political party in power would be able to undermine the judiciary’s independence. The statement made obvious the implications of the confrontation between the Andhra Pradesh chief minister and the state’s high court, while pointing to a systemic flaw — a loose end that, for obvious reasons, legislatures have left unchanged.

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