On Thursday (5th November 2020), BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay urged Attorney General K K Venugopal to reconsider his decision declining consent to initiate contempt proceedings against the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and his principal advisor for making allegations against judges. Taking the consent of the law officer is a condition precedent for initiating criminal contempt against a person.
On November 2 2020, the top law officer had termed as "prima facie contumacious" the conduct of Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy and his principal advisor Ajeya Kallam for making allegations against the judiciary but had declined consent to Upadhyay to initiate contempt against them on the grounds that CJI S A Bobde was seized of the matter.
On October 6 2020, the chief minister, in an unprecedented move, had written to the CJI alleging that the Andhra Pradesh High Court was being used to "destabilize and topple my democratically elected government".
The issue was examined by Venugopal along with the plea of Upadhyay and said that the public raised suspicion on the fact of the writing of a letter by Reddy to the CJI and subsequent press conference by Kallam to make its contents public.
Venugopal said, "In this background, prima facie, the conduct of the said persons is contumacious. However, what has to be noted is that the entire case of contempt arises out of the letter written by the Chief Minister directly to the Chief Justice of India and the subsequent press conference held by Kallam. The CJI is therefore seized of the matter. Hence, it would not be appropriate for me to deal with the matter."
Urging a relook on the decision, the lawyer said, "I humbly request you to peruse these points (particularly the fact that the question of contempt is not pending anywhere else) and kindly reconsider the granting of consent to my request.” He also added that "This is an issue of great importance at a time when our judiciary continues to be besieged by attacks, and a strong stand needs to be taken by those of us who are a part of the institution."
He said the chief minister's letter to the CJI of October 6 was sent after two days and "this was a private missive with scurrilous contents.
At this stage, it was left to the CJI alone to determine whether it constituted contempt".
"But, once Kallam on Reddy's behalf called a press conference, read out a separate statement and released the letter to the media and public on October 10, it ceased to be a private matter, and there was also an additional actor and an additional statement made."
Upadhyay said the contempt against Reddy was not pending with him but the CJI is seized of the letter of the Chief Minister leveling allegations against some judges.
It is unclear how the fact that Reddy's complaint pending with the Chief Justice can preclude my right to initiate criminal contempt against him and Kallam.
The lawyer said, "Even if such were the case, consent could be granted by you, and my petition would be tagged for hearing."
Earlier, Upadhyay had written to Venugopal seeking his consent to initiate contempt proceedings against Reddy and his advisor.