In a strongly worded judgment delivered on Wednesday, the Andhra Pradesh High Court came down heavily on the YS Jaganmohan Reddy government, making clear its refusal to be browbeaten by the government’s recent attack on judges of the Court.
Importantly, in a scathing indictment of the functioning of the Collegium system, the High Court expressed its disapproval at the way the transfer of two High Court Chief Justices was recommended.
The Court called for greater transparency in the Collegium’s functioning while remarking that the transfers will end up benefitting the YS Jaganmohan Reddy, against whom criminal cases are pending in Andhra Pradesh.
The author of this hard-hitting judgment, Justice Rakesh Kumar, is set to retire from office. Today will be his last working day. Justice Kumar, in fact, adverted to the same in his judgment yesterday, stating:
“I am well aware that many of my observations made herein above may not be in consonance with the technicality, but since on the verge of my retirement, my impartiality has been questioned by the Government of Andhra Pradesh on my face in the present proceeding, in my defence, I was constrained to record above facts, which are based on record and may not be disputed.”
This is not the first time Justice Rakesh Kumar has delivered an outspoken judgment. In fact, his transfer to the Andhra Pradesh High Court from the Patna High Court, which is his parent High Court, was itself preceded by a similar ruling.
This was in relation to a multi-crore scam on which he wrote a scathing judgment highlighting the state of corruption in the judicial system.
This order was passed on August 28, 2019, when Justice Kumar was a judge of Patna High Court. He took up and disposed an anticipatory bail plea filed by former IAS officer KP Ramaiah in connection with the multi-crore Bihar Mahadalit Vikas Mission fund scam.
During the proceedings, the Court took on record a news report published in Dainik Jagran. As per the news report, on the date that Ramaiah had surrendered before the trial court, the regular Special Judge (Vigilance) went on leave. Thereafter, Ramaiah surrendered and was granted bail by the judge on the same date.
Looking at the events, Justice Rakesh Kumar opined that the way Ramaiah was granted bail required a deeper probe, as it raised questions about the judiciary.
In his order, Justice Kumar took notice of another media report by Republic TV, with respect to corruption in the judiciary and said:
“…a private news channel i.e., Republic T.V. titled “Cash for Justice” had shown its sting operation programme on Television, which was reflective of the fact that in court premises of the Patna Civil Court, demanding and accepting illegal gratification was rampant.”
Justice Kumar claimed that he had taken up the cause orally with the other judges of the High Court, particularly the then Chief Justice, but “nothing was done”.
Further stating that corruption in “this High Court” was an “open secret”, Justice Rakesh Kumar added,
“…it is known to everyone that one senior Judge from the Allahabad High Court during Fodder Scam period had got his wife nominated, as Rajya Sabha Member. This was not the end. Again, there was a Judge from Allahabad High Court, who granted bail to an accused, whose record of bail petition was lying in the Chamber of Hon’ble Mr. Justice Akhilesh Chandra (as he then was), who was hearing his bail petition.”
The order passed by him was, however, stayed by an eleven judge Bench of the High Court before being quashed days later by a three judge Bench. As part of the fallout, judicial work was also briefly withdrawn from Justice Kumar before it was reassigned three days later.
On October 15, 2019, the Supreme Court Collegium passed a resolution recommending his transfer to the Andhra Pradesh High Court and the same was cleared by the Central government that same month.
Born in 1959, Justice Kumar enrolled at the Bar in 1983. He practiced at the Patna High Court and served as Government Advocate and Special Public Prosecutor on various occasions. He was also Standing Counsel for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for twelve years. He was elevated as additional judge of Patna High Court in December 2009 before being made a permanent judge in October 2011.
He was transferred to Andhra Pradesh High Court, where he assumed office on November 8, 2019.