The Supreme Court Friday asked Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati to assist it in the hearing of a petition challenging the appointment of Justice Nuthalapati Venkata Ramana as a judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court.
A bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai sought the attorney general's assistance, after senior counsel Ram Jethmalani urged the court to quash Justice Ramana's appointment as details of criminal prosecution in a rioting and destruction of public property case against him were suppressed from the apex court collegium which recommended his appointment.
The court asked Vahanvati how the petition of quo warranto seeking the removal of Justice Ramana was maintainable. It also asked him to place before it the all the records available with the government including related correspondence before the appointment of Justice Ramana June 27, 2012.
The court asked its secretary general to give, in a sealed cover, all the records relating to the appointment and what steps were taken on the Jan 8, 2012, letter sent by the petitioner, advocate M. Manohar Reddy to the Chief Justice of India.
The direction came in wake of submission by senior counsel Shanti Bhushan informing the court that the petitioner Manohar Reddy had sent all the details in a letter addressed to the then Chief Justice S.H.Kapadia but received no response.
Besides this, the secretary general was also asked to get the records of the criminal case against Justice Ramana from the court of additional munsif magistrate, Guntur in respect of FIR No. 58/1981 registered at Mangalgiri police Station.
Justice Ramana at present is a senior judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court and is in line for elevation as Chief Justice of a high court.
As Jethamalani urged the court to quash the appointment of Justice Ramana as it was bad in law, the court told him that apex court collegium had twice declined the proposal to make him a judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court but he was appointed at the instance of the then union law minister in June 2000.
"It was the advice of the law minister that made the collegium change its mind," the court said.
Incidentally Jethmalani was himself law minister in the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government. Caught on the wrong foot, the senior counsel told the court that it could suggest what could be done to undo the wrong.
The proposal to appoint Justice Ramana as a judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court was sent to the apex court collegium June 27, 2000. The proposal did not have the mention of pending criminal proceedings against him and the suppression of same on his Bar Council application.
A student of Nagarjuna University at Guntur in 1981, Justice Ramana was then named in a case involving rioting and destruction of public property. After completing his law degree, he in 1983 applied for enrolment in Andhra Pradesh Bar. However, in his application he did not mention about the criminal case pending against him. The charge sheet in the case was filed in 1983.
As usual, the trial got prolonged and May 8, 2000, he was declared proclaimed absconder. On Dec 2, 2000, a trial court issued warrant against him.
The TDP government headed by N. Chandrababu Naidu by an executive order Jan 31, 2002, withdrew prosecution in the case.
The apex court directed the listing of the matter Jan 21, 2013.