It is highly unusual for a chief minister to complain against sitting High Court judges in writing to the Chief Justice of India. But this precisely is what Andhra Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy did. In an unprecedented move, not only did Reddy allege that some of the HC judges were biased against the state government but that a serving senior judge of the Supreme Court too was working against him.
That Reddy is under increasing pressure from the Andhra high court, following the revival of long-pending cases of disproportionate assets is not a coincidence. But what may have triggered a sense of panic is the recent move to fast-track trial in all criminal cases against sitting and former legislators. Country-wide special courts to hear cases against legislators are to be set up in order to ensure greater accountability of the political class.
Reddy, who was jailed in the DA case some years ago, would obviously not like the case involving over Rs 1,500 crore amassed in disproportionate assets, when his late father Y S Reddy was AP chief minister, to be taken up for fast trial. His letter to the CJI S A Bobde ought to be seen in the above light. It is also remarkable that in an attempt to browbeat the high court judges, a massive social media campaign targeting them individually with unfounded charges of corruption, as also suggesting a conspiracy between them and former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu was unleashed.
The high court openly lamented that complaints to police went unheeded while even a mildly critical social media post against the CM had the police acting against the errant correspondent with great alacrity. Irked by the failure of police to take action against those posting false charges of corruption against judges, the state high court has now directed the CBI to take over the investigations. Mercifully, the state government has said it had no objection.
However, the response of the CJI to the letter from Reddy was still awaited. In this, he named the senior-most judge who is set to succeed Justice Bobde as the CJI upon his retirement next year. The allegation is that a family member of the said SC judge had purchased land in Amaravati ahead of it being declared the new capital of Andhra Pradesh after the creation of Telangana. Clearly, this was an attempt to browbeat the concerned judge, who had little to do with the decision to fast-track cases against legislators facing serious corruption charges.
A sitting chief minister attempting to undermine the independence and public standing of the higher judiciary in such a brazen manner in order to avoid judicial scrutiny underlines a dangerous trend in our public life. Undermining faith in higher judiciary can have serious consequences for Constitutional democracy. Hopefully, the CJI will respond to Reddy’s ill-advised letter in a manner that it puts a lid over the unsavoury controversy.
Business took priority
The Tata-owned Tanishq cannot be faulted for withdrawing an advertisement after being trolled on social media. Of course, nobody can justify the trolls threatening to boycott Tanishq and its mother company, Titan, for a socially relevant message extolling Hindu-Muslim harmony. But putting business interests and the safety of its employees ahead of a crusading bravado was only to be expected.
A business house, even if it is the Tata group, cannot be expected to pursue its crusading zeal at the cost of, well, business. Safety of its staff in numerous stores across the country was a priority. The ad, depicting a pregnant Hindu bride in a Muslim household being pleasantly surprised at the baby shower organised by a doting mother-in-law was a clear attempt at social messaging.
Generally, Muslim families do not follow the custom. Immediately, the idle minds that dominate the social media platforms pounced on Tanishq, crying love jihad and threatening to boycott it. A couple of crazies even approached a Tanishq store in Gujarat. Under the circumstances, withdrawing the ad seemed the only right thing to do. Regardless of the counter-blast on social media accusing the Tatas of chickening out, discretion in such matters is always better than valour.
Recall how until recently, Mumbai was held to ransom, bandhs and boycotts being enforced at the drop of a hat. Meanwhile, the 'secularists’ targeting Tanishq ought to address various social media posts referring to the murder in Delhi last week, of young Rahul Rajput in cold blood by the relatives of a young girl. She happened to be a Muslim who was allegedly in love with the deceased. Deep-seated schisms in the society cannot be addressed by chanting secularism/liberalism.