The development though separate from the Andhra CM’s recent controversial letter to CJI Bobde is being read as a stern warning to the Government by the Judiciary.
In a strongly-worded Order, the Andhra Pradesh High Court on Monday (12thOctober) ordered a CBI probe into the matter of malicious and defamatory remarks made by YSRCP leaders against the Judiciary.
A reading of the order by a Bench of Justice Rakesh Kumar and Justice J. Uma Devi indicates that the previous displeasure noted on the AP CID’s inaction made it take this decision.
The order begins with the following words, “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.” (emphasis supplied)
The Court notes in its order that on an earlier occasion, two complaints were filed on noticing defamatory posting against an Hon’ble Judge of the AP High Court, which was posted by the alleged accused, namely, Konda Reddy Dhanireddy of YSRCP.
In a similar context, on 17 April 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 malicious content on social media.
The Bench also indicated that on 22 May 2020, different Benches of the High Court had passed orders in Suo-Moto PIL 124 of 2020, WP(PIL) 110 of 2020, WP No.8185 of 2020, WP(PIL) No.101 of 2020, WP(PIL) 177 of 2019 and WP(PIL) 183 of 2019 which were passed against certain actions of the State Government and its functionaries. Soon after, social media was flooded with malicious content against the Judiciary.
On the directions of the High Court, the Registrar General lodged a complaint with the CID giving names and related evidence but the state police wing reportedly booked only 9 people.
CBI has been further directed to submit its report in a sealed cover to the High Court within eight weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of the said order.
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 logistical support, if the CBI requires.
Earlier, the AP High Court had issued notices to the Union of India, AP Government, AP Police, Google, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp in a writ petition filed by the High Court itself seeking action against defamatory social media posts against the judiciary. The petition was filed through the Registrar General and sought directions to the police to take action on two FIRs, lodged on 16 April and 18 April, complaining against unknown people posting “defamatory and scandalous material” on social media platforms.
These complaints mentioned comments relating to different judgments passed by the HC adverse to various decisions of the State Government.
The HC had initiated suo-moto contempt against 49 persons for allegedly posting such contents in social media. These 49 individuals included a Member of Parliament and a former Member of Legislative Assembly, observing that they made intimidating and abusive social media posts against judges. Bapatla MP, Nandigam Suresh and former MLA Amanchi Krishna Mohan of YSRCP, are among those who were served the notices.
Rumours indicate that the Judiciary in the State has taken objection to the Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan’s over-indulgence in judicial matters and with his scathing letter based on merely circumstantial evidence, the Judiciary has taken it as a direct and unnecessary attack. Politicians in the Opposition benches have reportedly called it an “intimidation of Judiciary”.
The Order without naming the CM, YSRCP MPs and the Speaker in one instance says, “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.” (emphasis supplied)