Justice V. Eswaraiah (Retd.) vs Union Of India on 12 April, 2021


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Supreme Court of India

Justice V. Eswaraiah (Retd.) vs Union Of India on 12 April, 2021

Author: Ashok Bhushan

Bench: Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy

                                                                          REPORTABLE


                                    IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                     CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                          SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (C) NO.6100 OF 2021
                                   (DIARY No.24744 of 2020)


         JUSTICE V. ESWARAIAH (RETD.)                              ....APPELLANT(S)

                                                   VERSUS

         UNION OF INDIA & ORS.                                     ...RESPONDENT(S)


                                            J U D G M E N T

ASHOK BHUSHAN, J.

This special leave petition has been filed by the

petitioner, a non-party, to the Writ Petition PIL

No.168 of 2020 questioning the order dated 13.08.2020

passed in the writ petition.

2. Application for permission to file special leave

petition is allowed.

Signature Not Verified

3.
Digitally signed by
MEENAKSHI KOHLI
We had not issued the notice in this special
Date: 2021.04.12
15:19:58 IST
Reason:

leave petition, however, the respondent No.5, who was

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writ petitioner before High Court had appeared and

filed a counter affidavit dated 13.01.2021.

4. The brief facts of the case necessary to decide

this special leave petition are:-

4.1 The respondent No.5, BC SC ST Minority

Student Federation, a registered society

under the provisions of Societies

Registration Act, 1860 has filed the Writ

Petition No.168 of 2020 as the Public

Interest Litigation praying for following

reliefs:-

(i) Direct the Respondent No.1 to
implement its guidelines in
true spirit in order to prevent
Covid-19 pandemic from
spreading further, by its own
machinery and State machinery
in coordination to function
effectively.

(ii) Direct the Respondent No.4 to
strictly follow the guidelines
issued by Respondent No.1 and
their own guidelines by
utilizing the State Machinery
effectively in order to prevent
Covid-19 pandemic from
spreading further

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(iii) Direct the Respondent No.3 to
strictly follow the guidelines
issued by Respondent No.1, 4,
and the Honourable Apex Court
in order to prevent Covid-19
pandemic from spreading further

(iv) Direct the Respondent No.4 to
declare Respondent No.3
premises as a Red
Zone/containment Zone in order
to prevent Covid-19 from
spreading further

(v) Direct the Respondent No.1 and
2 herein to cause an enquiry to
be conducted by a central and
neutral agency to enquire into
the incidents leading to the
untimely death of Late B.

Rajasekhar, Registrar General
(In death of Late B.

Rajasekhar, Registrar General
(In-charge) of the Respondent
No.3 herein on 24/6/2020, the
death of an employee working as
Assistant in the V.R. Section
and about 30 more employees
being tested positive of Covid-

19

(vi) Direct the Respondent No.1 and
2 to consider imposing a strict
curfew for at least 2 weeks by
drafting para military forces
if need be and by providing
necessary mobile medical teams
and essential commodity
delivery teams in order to
prevent Covid-19 pandemic from
spreading further and in the
interest of all concerned.

3
4.2 The respondent No.3, the High Court of Andhra

Pradesh represented by the Registrar General

filed a preliminary counter affidavit dated

30.07.2020. In the preliminary counter

affidavit, the locus of the Society to file

the PIL was questioned. It was pleaded that

PIL is not a genuine PIL having substantial

public interest. In paragraph 13 of the

preliminary counter affidavit, it was pleaded

that petition has been filed by a political

person to political gain and to malign the

High Court. It was pleaded that former

Justice V. Eswaraiah (the petitioner in this

special leave petition) has also submitted a

complaint with the same allegations to the

President of India referred herein against

the Chief Justice. Further, it was pleaded

in paragraph 13 that after retirement Justice

V. Eswaraiah had obtained a post retirement

office and after achieving the said post

retirement office, he wants to support the

State Government under the cover of BC

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association maligning the High Court. It was

pleaded in the preliminary counter affidavit

that filing of the petition is mala fide and

to achieve the oblique intention.

4.3 The High Court heard the preliminary

objection and closed the matter for judgment

on 31.07.2020. An I.A. No.7 of 2020 was

filed by one S. Ramakrishna alongwith his

affidavit stating that writ petition is

vexatious and has been instituted malafidely

and with vested interest. The affidavit

further pleaded that the incumbent Government

has unleashed a vicious propaganda against

the judiciary to cover up its shortcomings,

in which some of the retired judges like

Justice V. Eswaraiah had become pawns in the

hands of the Government and at their

instance, under the guise of some

organisations some vested interests have been

filing writ petitions to undermine the

honesty, integrity and majesty of the

judiciary.

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4.4 A representation dated 29.06.2020 submitted

by Working President of All India Backward

Classes Federation of which Justice V.

Eswaraiah is President has also been referred

to in affidavit. In paragraph 8, it was

pleaded that Personal Secretary of Justice V.

Eswaraiah called him (Shri S. Ramakrishna) on

his mobile phone on 20.07.2020 and told him

that Retired Justice V. Eswaraiah wished to

speak to him and gave his phone number. It

was stated in the affidavit that during the

course of conversation, Retd. Justice V.

Eswaraiah asked him whether he was aware of

the letter submitted by All India Backward

Classes Federation dated 29.06.2020. The

transcript of the said conversation alongwith

audio recording was filed alongwith affidavit

for perusal of the Court. The applicant

prayed that Writ Petition PIL No.168 of 2000

be reopened and suitable orders be passed as

may deem fit and proper.

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4.5 I.A. No.8 of 2020 was filed by Shri S.

Ramakrishna praying that applicant (Shri S.

Ramakrishna, petitioner) be permitted to

intervene in the Writ Petition PIL No.168 of

2020 in public interest.

4.6 I.A. No.9 of 2020 was filed by respondent

No.3 alongwith an affidavit of Registrar

General, High Court of Andhra Pradesh. By

I.A., respondent No.3 stated that during the

course of the proceedings, learned Advocate

General of the State of Andhra Pradesh has

raised objection regarding contents of

paragraph 13 of the preliminary counter

affidavit dated 30.07.2020, so as to avoid

unnecessary controversy, he may be permitted

to delete paragraph 13 of preliminary counter

affidavit dated 30.07.2020, which may be

substituted by paragraph 13 as was set out in

paragraph 4 of the affidavit. The application

for amendment of preliminary counter

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affidavit dated 30.07.2020 was filed by

respondent No.3.

4.7 The writ petitioner filed a counter affidavit

to I.A. Nos. 7 and 8. The High Court by

impugned judgment dated 13.08.2020 passed an

order directing enquiry to find out the

authenticity/genuineness of the conversation

contained in the pen drive. The High Court

requested Justice R.V. Raveendran, a Retired

Judge of this Court to hold out an enquiry to

find out the genuineness/authenticity of the

conversation contained in the pen drive. The

High Court held:-

“………………Hence, we find
that it is a fit case to order
enquiry to find out the
authenticity/genuineness of the
conversation contained in the pen-
drive. Therefore, we request The
Hon’ble Sri. Justice R.V.

Raveendran retired Judge of the
Supreme Court of India to hold an
enquiry to find out the
authenticity/genuineness of the
conversation, contained in the
pen-drive…………..”

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4.8 The High Court in the same paragraph with

regard to enquiry which was directed, stated

following:-

“…………………..The
enquiry is limited to find out the
authenticity/genuineness of the
conversation and third party
interest behind the plot. However,
this will not have any direct
bearing on the issue involved in
the main writ petition, except to
the extent of deciding the
allegation made in Paragraph No.
13 of the preliminary
counter/preliminary written
objections, but will be taken into
consideration in any other
incidental
proceedings……………..”

4.9 The Registrar of the High Court was directed

to duplicate set of record and pen drive and

send one such copy to Justice R.V.

Raveendran. The request as contained in the

order of the High Court to Justice Raveendran

was to the following effect:-

“We request Hon’ble Sri. Justice
R.V. Raveendran, Retired Judge of
Supreme Court of India, to submit
a report to this Court on the
basis of the enquiry as to the
authenticity/genuineness of
conversation contained in pen-

drive, the persons who had

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conversation and un-disclosed
interest of third party/parties.”

4.10 Aggrieved against the above direction of the

High Court directing for enquiry through

Justice R.V. Raveendran, Retired Judge,

Supreme Court, the petitioner, Retired Acting

Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court

has filed this writ petition.

5. This special leave petition was taken for

consideration on 11.01.2021. During submissions,

learned counsel for the petitioner Shri Prashant

Bhushan stated that the transcription of the talk

between the petitioner with Mr. Ramakrishna dated

20.07.2020 has been filed as Annexure P16 to the

paper book. He did not dispute the conversation and

prayed that the petitioner be permitted to file an

affidavit with regard to conversation dated

20.04.2020. Following order was passed by this Court

on 11.01.2021:-

“Mr. Prashant Bhushan, learned counsel
appearing for the petitioner submits that
the transcription of the talk between the

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petitioner with Mr. Ramakrishna dated
20.07.2020 is filed as Annexure P16.

Learned counsel for the petitioner
does not dispute the conversation. He
prays that he be permitted to file an
affidavit of the petitioner with regard to
above conversation.

Let affidavit be filed.

List the matter on 18.01.2021.”

6. In pursuance of the order of this Court dated

11.01.2021, affidavit dated 14.01.2021 has been filed

by the petitioner Justice V. Eswaraiah (Retd.). In

the affidavit, it has been admitted that a suspended

District Munsif Magistrate of Andhra Pradesh, Mr. S.

Ramakrishna called him over the Whatsapp on

20.07.2020. He, however, stated that he cannot say

that if the conversation contained in the pen drive

is the exact conversation. Justice V. Eswaraiah in

paragraph 4C. of the affidavit disputed the English

transcription of the audio conversation as filed by

Mr. S. Ramakrishna before the High Court. However,

he submitted that he is providing a corrected

transcript of the talk contained in the pen drive as

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Annexure P-16 at pages 134-154. Paragraph 4C of the

affidavit is as follows:-

“4c. …………………. I have
provided a corrected transcript of the
English translation of the audio tape
contained in the pen drive supplied to me,
in the SLP paper book as Annexure P16 at
pages 134-154. I reiterate, this is the
transcription of the audio version of the
conversation which Mr. Ramakrishna has
filed in the High Court…………..”

7. We have heard learned counsel for the petitioner,

learned counsel appearing for respondent No.5, Shri

Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General has also

appeared on behalf of Union of India.

8. Two applications, i.e., I.A. Nos. 3926 of 2021

and 3927 of 2021 and I.A. No.1215 of 2021 have been

filed by intervenors praying to be permitted to

intervene in the matter.

9. In view of the order which is being proposed in

this special leave petition, we see no reason to

allow the intervention application Nos.3926 and 3927

of 2021 and I.A. No. 1215 of 2021. The intervention

applications, thus, are not entertained.

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10. Learned counsel for the petitioner submits that

the High Court could not have entertained the I.A.

No.7 of 2020 and I.A. No.8 of 2020 at the instance of

Shri S. Ramakrishna, a suspended Munsif when the writ

petition was already closed on preliminary objection

on 31.07.2020. It is submitted that private

conversation between the petitioner and Shri

Ramakrishna could not have been made subject matter

of the writ petition. The subject matter of the writ

petition is entirely different from what is contained

in the said conversation. It is submitted that

Justice V. Eswaraiah was not given a notice by the

High Court and the order has been passed in violation

of principles of natural justice. It is submitted

that High Court could not have passed any order

directing for enquiry in the transcript dated

20.07.2020 without petitioner being given an

opportunity. Learned counsel submits that petitioner

since admits the transcripts, which has been filed as

Annexure P-16 pages 134-154 of the paper book, there

is no need to hold any enquiry by Justice R.V.

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Raveendran, which has been requested by the High

Court to conduct the enquiry.

11. We have considered the submissions of the learned

counsel for the parties and have perused the records.

12. As noted above, the High Court has directed for

enquiry into the transcript to find out the

authenticity/genuineness of the conversation

contained in the pen drive. Justice R.V. Raveendran,

Retd. Judge of Supreme Court was requested to submit

a report to the High Court as to the

authenticity/genuineness of the conversation

contained in the pen drive. The object and purpose of

directing the enquiry was, thus, to find out the

authenticity/genuineness of the conversation

contained in the pen drive. This Court granting time

to the petitioner by order dated 11.01.2021,

petitioner having filed affidavit and admitted the

conversation dated 20.07.2020 and has also filed the

corrected transcript of the English translation of

the audio tape as Annexure P16, which is admitted to

him, we see no reason to allow to continue the

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enquiry by Justice R.V. Raveendran as directed by the

High Court by the impugned judgment. Authenticity and

genuineness of the transcript having been admitted to

the extent as contained in Annexure P-16, we are of

the view that the direction by the High Court calling

for report from Justice R.V. Raveendran need not be

allowed to continue. We order accordingly.

13. The High Court in its judgment as extracted above

has clearly observed that the enquiry will not have

any direct bearing on the issue involved in the main

writ petition except to the extent of deciding the

allegations made in paragraph 13 of the preliminary

counter affidavit. High Court had closed hearing on

the preliminary objection regarding maintainability

of the PIL on 31.07.2020 and when I.A. Nos. 7 and 8

of 2020 were filed to reopen the writ petition, the

question before the High Court was only with regard

to maintainability of the writ petition.

14. We are of the view that the High Court ought not

to have embarked on any other enquiry in the matter

except to the maintainability of the PIL at the

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instance of the writ petitioner and the conversation

dated 20.07.2020 filed before the High Court as well

as the enquiry report sought was only with the above

purpose.

15. Now, English translation of the transcript dated

20.07.2020 having been admitted by the writ

petitioner, which have been filed by petitioner

himself as Annexure P-16, we are of the view that in

event, the High Court intends to refer to the above

transcript, if required, the same can be done only

after giving an opportunity to the present

petitioner, Justice V. Eswaraiah.

16. We have not issued notice in the special leave

petition neither have entered into the merits of the

writ petition, nor expressing any opinion on the

maintainability of the Writ Petition PIL No.168 of

2020, it is for the High Court to proceed with the

writ petition and decide the same, including the

maintainability of the PIL, after hearing arguments

on which point the orders were reserved.

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17. The special leave petition is disposed of

accordingly.

………………….J.

( ASHOK BHUSHAN )

………………….J.

( R. SUBHASH REDDY )

New Delhi,
April 12, 2021.

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