Two months after CM Jagan Reddy’s complaint, Andhra Pradesh chief justice transferred
The Union government on Thursday cleared the transfer of Andhra Pradesh high court chief justice Jitendra Kumar Maheshwari to the Sikkim high court as its new chief justice in a direct swap with justice Arup Kumar Goswami, who moves from Sikkim to Andhra Pradesh.
The notifications were issued by the law ministry after recommendations made by the Supreme Court Collegium on December 14, when its meeting was chaired by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde, and attended by the next two most senior judges, justices NV Ramana and Rohinton Nariman.
The development comes after an unprecedented row between the high court and Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, who accused the state judiciary of stalling all the policy decisions of his government.
After months of friction, the tussle reached a flashpoint in September when the high court issued a gag order against the media from reporting the contents of a first information report (FIR) in an land scandal in Amaravati, allegedly involving former advocate general Dammalapati Srinivas and the daughters of a sitting Supreme Court judge, justice NV Ramana.
In October, CM Reddy wrote a letter to CJI Bobde, complaining that justice Ramana was trying to influence cases in the high court to destabilise his government. This letter was released to the media by Reddy’s principal advisor Ajeya Kallam at a press conference.
On an appeal by the state government, the Supreme Court on November 25 lifted the gag order on reporting the FIR, while a bunch of petitions asking for action against CM Reddy for his remarks against justice Ramana in the letter were dismissed by the top court on December 1.
On December 30, justice Rakesh Kumar’s bench in the Andhra Pradesh high court said that the transfer of chief justices would delay proceedings in the three-capitals case and a pending Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) cases against Reddy, giving him an “undue advantage”. The scathing comments by the judge came when the state government sought his recusal from a case. Justice Kumar retired on Friday.
The law ministry has also notified transfer of Telangana high court chief Justice RS Chauhan as the new chief justice of the Uttarakhand cigh court. Chief justice Mohammad Rafiq, who was at the Orissa high court, was appointed as the Madhya Pradesh high court’s chief justice.
The high courts of Telangana and Orissa will now be led by two judges from different high courts whose elevations were also notified on Friday -- justices Hima Kohli and S Muralidhar respectively.
Justice Sanjib Banerjee, a judge of the Calcutta high court, has been appointed as the new chief justice of the Madras High Court.