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A retired Judge of the High Court has been pulled up by the Telangana High Court for levelling charges against a sitting High Court Judge.
The Telangana High Court today pulled up former judge of the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad, Justice P Swaroop Reddy, for levelling allegations against Justice MS Ramachandra Rao, a sitting Judge of the Telangana High Court.
Justice Swaroop Reddy, who is Chairman of the Telangana Admission and Fee Regulatory Committee (TAFRC), had sought the recusal of Justice Rao from hearing a batch of petitions assailing a government order which fixed the fees for PG Medical Courses in the state of Telangana. The fee was fixed on the recommendations made by the TAFRC.
The recusal was sought on various grounds, including those of prejudice against the people, the state, the Chief Minister of Telangana, and the TAFRC. It was also contended by Justice Reddy that the subject matter of the writ petitions was beyond Justice Rao's roster.
The petitions on the fee hike were initially placed for hearing before a Single Judge, who preferred the petition before a Division Bench. In an administrative order, the Chief Justice of the High Court agreed that the matter was of urgent nature. Thus, the petition was placed before the Bench of Justices MS Ramachandra Rao and K Lakshman, the only Division Bench hearing such cases during the lockdown.
On taking the matter up for hearing, the Court sought a detailed reasoning from TAFRC as to why a hike between 118% to 154% in the fees was recommended by it. The Committee was given a day's time to respond.
The state contended that the matter was not of urgent nature. However, the Court proceeded to treat it as urgent in light of the administrative order passed by the Chief Justice.
Thereafter, a memo was submitted by TAFRC Chairman Justice Rao, in which he sought the recusal of Justice Rao for allegedly expressing views and making comments prejudicial against the people of Telangana.
Justice Reddy says in his memo that he met with Justice Rao at a dinner party hosted by a former Judge where Justice Rao "made criticism of Telangana people, its Chief Minister and the state and also a sitting judge of the Hon'ble Supreme Court"
Further, Justice Reddy said that at an earlier instance, a contempt notice was issued to him in his capacity as TAFRC Chairman by Justice Rao. However, no further development took place on this front.
Justice Reddy also added that in previous cases before the Court where TAFRC was involved, Justice Rao made "unwarranted comments" against the TAFRC and the government, and passed orders against the state.
Today, the Division Bench recused from hearing the matter, not on account of there being any merit in the allegations, but owing to the matter being vitiated by Justice Reddy's allegations.
While the Court refrained from initiating contempt proceedings against Justice Reddy, the order rejects every allegation made in the memo written by the former judge.
On the question of Justice Rao passing orders against the state and the TAFRC in the past, the Bench stated that those orders were subsequently upheld by benches of higher strength, showing that Justice Rao's orders were not prejudicial but reasoned judicial orders.
Countering Justice Reddy's next allegation, the Court state that the contempt case initiated against him in his capacity as TAFRC Chairman stood closed more than two years ago, a fact which was "conveniently" left out by him in his memo.
On the allegation of Justice Rao making comments against the people of Telangana at a dinner party, the Court terms this dinner party a "figment of imagination".
With reference to orders passed by Justice Rao in the past mentioned in the TAFRC Chairman's memo, the Court said that the same is "highly improper".
The judicial orders were passed by the judge in discharge of his constitutional duties to decide disputes and in this process "sometimes orders are required to be passed, both against in favour of parties to a lis."
In addition to the cases that went against the TAFRC and the state, there have been orders passed by Justice Rao in favour of the government also, the Court has had to point out.
Further refuting the alleged bias against the people and the state of Telangana, the Court states that both judges on the Bench are persons born and raised in Telangana and have lived in the region for over 50 years. It is further added by the Court,
"We have no reason to have any hostility or to show favoritism to any individual or State, or any party, for that matter."
The Court also opines that the words used by the retired judge in his memo are "unbecoming" and "go beyond all levels of propriety".
Citing the Supreme Court's recent judgment in the case of In Re: Vijay Kurle and Ors, the Court stated that the memo by the TAFRC Chairman falls in the category of interference of administration of justice and prima facie amounts to criminal contempt.
These actions by the TAFRC Chairman, in fact, can also be viewed as an attempt at bench hunting, the Court added. However, expressing their confidence in the people and lawyers of the state of Telangana to know of the credibility of the two judges, the Court refrained from initiating contempt proceedings against Justice Reddy.
Read Justice P Swaroop Reddy's Memo