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Decrying social media posts criticising its judges, the Andhra Pradesh High Court has lashed out at anti-social elements attacking it with oblique motives.
The Court has thus ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the FIRs lodged against persons who posted defamatory and contemptuous content against the High Court and its judges on social media.
The Bench of Justices Rakesh Kumar and Uma Devi pronounced the order in suo motu proceedings seeking investigation of social media posts and regulation of content pertaining to the judiciary on social media.
Taking a direct jibe at the government, the Bench critically noted:
The first round of posts against judges, the Court noted, began with a YSR Congress Party member's criticism of the Court for its judgment quashing the Government Order mandating English as the medium of instruction in schools across the state.
A written report was subsequently sent by the Registrar General of the High Court to the police, disclosing cognizable offences against the accused persons. The police then filed two FIRs in relation to the complaint.
Thereafter, several abusive posts by members of the ruling party led to the Court filing a second report claiming:
"...they posted abusive, life threatening and intimidating postings against the Hon’ble Judges in social media as furnished in the enclosures, they also fabricated material with abusive, hatred and contemptuous contents and to cause incitement, disaffection and ill-will against the Hon’ble High Court and Hon’ble Judges."
The report further noted,
"A video footage of Sakshi news reveal that Mr. Nandigam Suresh in his live speech from YCP Office, Tadepalli, attributed motive to the High Court that Mr. Chandrababu Naidu is managing the High Court, he also stated that how Mr. Chandrababu Naidu came to know the verdict prior to half an hour or 10 minutes of its pronouncement and he shall be enquired. Mr. Chandu Reddy tweeted that “total how many judges are there in High Court, all those will be cut into pieces” and also tweeted that “Everyone shall be cut into pieces. All the Judges shall be kept in a room and a Corona Patient shall be left with them.” and Mr.Kishore Reddy Darisa in a facebook message stated that “All the High Court Judges are Bastards, they are good for nothing except for sleeping with their wives. Let them arrest me and order for CBI enquiry”, further, there are identical and other abusive and intimidating messages on the social media. All these appear there is larger conspiracy against the Hon’ble Judges."
Then, in May this year, the High Court had initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against 49 persons, including MP Nandigam Suresh and former MLA, Amanchi Krishna Mohan for the above mentioned public statements.
Despite the Court's entreaties, no action was taken, and the outcry against the Court grew louder, the Bench noted. The order states,
"Immediately thereafter, the social media was flooded with objectionable posts. Even the persons occupying high position went to the media and gave interviews against the High Court and its Judges, that too, from the party office belonging to a political party, which is in power. Accordingly, this was the reason for filing written report/complaint by the Registrar General for registering FIR."
During an earlier hearing in the present suo motu case, the Court had asked Advocate N Ashwini Kumar appearing for the High Court, Senior Advocate Niranjan Reddy for the Andhra Pradesh CID, and Advocate General S Sriram to make arguments on whether the investigation should be entrusted to another agency.
All the counsel had agreed for the probe to be handed over to an another investigating agency, which was well-equipped and having a number of branches across India. Thus, the Court held,
Andhra Pradesh High Court
The Court has also asked the CBI to look into whether the slew of posts against the High Court and its judges form part of a "larger conspiracy". The order reads,
"While conducting investigation, it would be necessary to examine as to whether such attacks on Judiciary were made as a result of larger conspiracy or not. If it is noticed that it was due to the result of larger conspiracy, the CBI is required to take appropriate action against such culprits irrespective of the post and position."
While transferring the investigation in all the FIRs concerning the objectionable posts to the CBI, the Court directed that a report be filed on the same within eight weeks, in a sealed cover.
Additionally, the Court ordered the CBI to ensure that the posts in questions be taken down.
Read the order here: