Amaravati land scam: Supreme Court stays Andhra HC order gagging media

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November 26, 2020 6:26 AM

The Supreme Court on Wednesday vacated the Andhra Pradesh High Court’s order that gagged media from reporting on a case related to the Amaravati land scam allegedly involving a former advocate general and two daughters of a senior SC Judge.

To that end, the 2012 judgment of the Supreme Court, on an injunction plea arising out of Sahara vs Sebi, is quite instructive.Senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for other parties, submitted that the SC should not interfere at this stage and let the HC deal with the matter.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday vacated the Andhra Pradesh High Court’s order that gagged media from reporting on a case related to the Amaravati land scam allegedly involving a former advocate general and two daughters of a senior SC Judge. A bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan while seeking response from former Advocate General Dammalapati Srinivas and others also stayed a part of the HC’s September 15 interim order that prohibited publication of news with regard to the registration of an FIR, in any electronic, print or social media. The apex court also requested the HC not to decide the former Advocate General’s writ petition finally till the disposal of the case by the top court. It also posted the matter for further hearing in January.

The SC was hearing an appeal filed by the Andhra Pradesh government against the HC order. It stated that the investigation process was at a nascent stage and any stay of the investigation may lead to destruction of material documents, tampering of evidence and evasion of the investigation process. It also said the HC’s order granting blanket stay, was erroneous, illegal, perverse and liable to be set aside as the accused persons did not enjoy any immunity or privilege.

The AP police had registered a FIR against the former advocate general and 13 others, including two daughters of a SC Judge, on the ground that they purchased land in Amaravati area with full prior knowledge of it being chosen as the new Capital.

Senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the the YS Jaganmohan Reddy government, questioned the HC’s interim order, saying such an “unprecedented” order couldn’t have been passed at all. He said that the former AG in its writ petition had alleged mala fide, but nothing was presented on record to corroborate it. “This was an entirely a political writ petition against the CM and this government,” he said, adding that the Amaravati Land scam shows various transactions reportedly involving the former AG and others. “When there were allegations against certain land transfers, should it not be investigated,” he asked.

Senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the former AG, argued that there was no illegality in buying land in mid-2015 when thousands had bought land from June 2014, when it became public knowledge that Amaravati will be the new capital. Rohatgi submitted that as many as 25 criminal cases were pending against the CM and the present government wanted to destroy reputation of this lawyer.

Refuting all charges against the former AG, Rohatgi said that “my client is targeted because he was appearing for the (former) CM. This case reeks of mala fide. This is worse than the Emergency…It will be a matter of common knowledge where a new capital is coming.”

Senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for other parties, submitted that the SC should not interfere at this stage and let the HC deal with the matter. But there was a vote of no confidence against the HC and the CM made allegations against the Chief Justice. The case is about “regime revenge,” he said.

After the HC’s order, the CM on October 6 had written a letter to the CJI accusing the top court’s judges of influencing the HC proceedings in matters concerning the state. Subsequently, the letter was made public on October 10, triggering a massive controversy and demand for contempt action against the CM.

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