New Delhi: Former Andhra Pradesh High Court judge Justice (retd) V Eswaraiah has alleged in the Supreme Court that relatives of a “senior sitting” apex court judge were involved in “benami transactions” in the Amaravati land scam and he was trying to collect more evidence in this regard.
In an affidavit filed in the top court, Justice (retd) Eswaraiah said he had sought information from a suspended judicial officer regarding the benami transactions in a phone conversation, which purportedly pertained to corruption allegations related to land deals in the state’s new capital region.
The former high court judge has filed a plea in the top court challenging the August 13 last year order of Andhra Pradesh High Court, which directed investigation into the alleged phone conversation between him and the suspended judicial officer saying that the recorded conversation placed before it contained information that purportedly disclosed a serious conspiracy against the judiciary.
“I state that asking for material (if available) regarding the conduct of a sitting judge and which to my knowledge was the subject matter of investigation, cannot by any stretch of imagination be said to be a conspiracy. I state that I did seek information and material from Mr Ramakrishna (suspended district munsif) in that phone conversation with regard to benami transactions involving the CRDA in Andhra Pradesh and the involvement of the relatives of the said Supreme Court judge,” Justice (retd) Eswaraiah has said in his affidavit filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan.
“That the relatives of a senior sitting Supreme Court judge were involved in these transactions was information that I had received and was trying to collect more evidence with regard to,” he said.
The affidavit was filed in pursuance to the apex court’s January 11 direction asking Justice (retd) Eswaraiah to clarify his stand with regard to his conversation with the suspended district munsif.
The matter came up for hearing on Monday before a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan.
The bench posted the matter for hearing in the first week of February.
Justice (retd) Eswaraiah said his admission or denial of the private conversation with Ramakrishna is “immaterial” in deciding the plea as the high court order has been challenged on the ground that the “same is untenable in law apart from being violative of my right to privacy which is held to be a fundamental right protected under Article 21 and under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India”.
“I have not committed any crime and there is no complaint by anybody with reference to the said private conversation,” he said.
He said that English transcription of the audio conversation, as contained in the pen drive filed by Ramakrishna before the high court, is “incorrect” and it has been deliberately distorted to give a false and misleading impression with regard to the conversation.
“I state that the conversation as I recall with the suspended district musnif, Mr Ramakrishna, was threefold. Firstly, I have sought information about his suspension. Secondly, I have consoled and cajoled him due to the harassment he had faced,” he said.
“Lastly, I sought information from him about the benami transactions regarding the new capital region in the state of Andhra Pradesh, which according to my information had been the subject matter of a cabinet sub-committee which recommended the formation of an SIT and subsequently the government of Andhra Pradesh wrote to the Union Ministry of Personnel and Grievances to transfer this investigation to the CBI since it involved interstate investigation and several high ranking influential persons,” the affidavit said.
He said he has come public in various press conferences to “expose the misconduct of the Supreme Court judge especially his proximity with the erstwhile government of Andhra Pradesh”.
“I state that the allegations of ‘conspiracy’ and a ‘plot’ are totally false and far from the truth. I have always endeavoured and continue to endeavour to protect and preserve the independence of judiciary. The allegations of a ‘conspiracy’ and ‘plot’ have been loosely attributed to me which apart from being white lies are derogatory and defamatory,” he said, while seeking quashing of the high court order.
The high court, in its order, had requested former Supreme Court judge Justice R V Raveendran to inquire into the matter.
The phone conversation, according to the plea, purportedly pertained to the corruption allegations in the Amaravati land scam.
The former judge has said the high court’s order was made on the basis of an application for “reopening and intervention filed by the suspended District Munsif Magistrate (S Ramakrishna) in an unrelated PIL” seeking implementation of COVID-19 guidelines in court building and premises.
The plea has said that the former high court judge, in the alleged phone conversation, had merely mentioned his knowledge about allegations of misconduct and terming such a conversation to be a kind of conspiracy, was unwarranted.
The Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy government had constituted the 10-member SIT, headed by a Deputy Inspector General of Police- rank IPS officer, on February 21 last year, to conduct a comprehensive investigation into various alleged irregularities, particularly the land deals in the Amaravati Capital Region, during the previous Chandrababu Naidu regime.