The judge hearing the bail plea of arrested Hyderabad Central University students and teachers could find herself in a potential conflict-of-interest row as her husband works for a BJP lawmaker facing allegations of abetting Dalit student Rohith Vemula’s suicide.
The husband of Dhamavarapu Varoodhini, the Miyapur court metropolitan magistrate who will hear the bail applications on Monday, works in the law firm of Ramachander Rao, a BJP member of the Telangana legislative council.
Rao is one of the men against whom a case under the SC/ST atrocities act was registered by police after Vemula’s January 17 death, which triggered nationwide campus protests against alleged caste discrimination in educational institutions.
Dontha Prashanth, who filed the complaint against Rao, is one of the student-protesters awaiting bail.
Judge Varoodhini’s husband, M Vijaykanth, works at Rao’s office located near Taranaka and is an active BJP and Sangh Parivar member too.
The judge will hear the bail pleas of 27 students and two teachers, who were arrested on March 23 during violence-marred protests against vice-chancellor Podile Appa Rao’s return to the campus after two months of leave. Student-protesters hold Appa Rao responsible for Vemula’s suicide.
When the bail matter came up before the judge on Thursday, she conceded to the police’s plea for time to file their counter-arguments and extended the arrested protesters’ custody until Monday.
Husband Vijaykanth told this reporter at Rao’s office that he is married to the judge.
Later, at the couple’s home, Vijaykanth refused to react to the conflict-of-interest charge, saying his wife was not interested in commenting on the issue. “We don’t have interest in these matters,” he said.
In his reaction, Rao said: “I don’t like the judiciary to be politicised. I have no idea. I have nothing to do with it.”
“It is not good for the judiciary to be dragged into politics,” he said, responding to the query if the judge should have voluntarily recused herself from the case.
On June 21, 2014, soon after the Lok Sabha elections, Judge Varoodhini “liked and shared” on Facebook campaign material put up by an account named “I Support Narendra Modi”. On June 16, 2015, she shared another news report on Modi’s speech at a book launch.