Andhra Pradesh High Court reserves judgement in GO No 1 case; CJ raps vacation bench

  Arguments by counsels of the petitioners and state AG S Sriram ended on Tuesday and the CJ reserved its order.

BySNV Sudhir

Published Jan 24, 2023 | 9:29 PM Updated Jan 24, 2023 | 9:29 PM

The Andhra Pradesh High Court.

A bench headed by Andhra Pradesh Chief Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra on Tuesday, 24 January, reserved judgement after hearing multiple petitions filed against Government Order (GO) No 1 issued by the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government that restricts roadshows and meetings on roads.

Arguments by the counsels of the petitioners, as well as the state advocate general (AG), S Sriram, on behalf of the government, ended on Tuesday, and the bench reserved its order.

The vacation bench of the state high court, in an interim order on 12 January, had stayed the operation of the 2 January GO, holding that, prima facie, it was contrary to the procedure prescribed under Section 30 of the Police Act of 1861.

Following this, the state government approached the Supreme Court against the interim order.

Justifying its 2 January order, the Andhra Pradesh government referred to certain instances, including one on 28 December, 2022, in which eight people were killed in a stampede at a political roadshow in Kandukur, Nellore, linked to TDP leader N Chandrababu Naidu.

The Supreme Court on 20 January directed the Andhra Pradesh High Court to hear the plea.

CJ raps vacation bench, petitioner’s counsel

When the hearing began on Monday, Chief Justice Mishra made some stinging remarks against the vacation bench while also asking what the urgency was to file a lunch motion in the case.

“Going into the roots of the very proprietary of this case, it didn’t seem to be of such an urgent nature. I knew everything that was happening and how things happened that day,” the chief justice said.

Chief Justice Mishra asked whether the petitioner had staged any dharna or protest that they had to file a lunch motion in the winter court.

Related: Two stampedes, 11 deaths later, rallies on roads banned

The chief justice said the vacation bench behaved akin to a “de facto chief justice”. In his observations, he said the vacation bench had acted beyond its limitations and had belittled the position of the chief justice by taking up the case, he said.

If every vacation court in the high court takes up any matter saying it is important, then what would happen to the institution, he questioned. He added that every vacation judge can become a chief justice if this kind of practice is allowed.

He also made it clear that no policy or administrative matter shall be taken up by a vacation bench.

Chief Justice Mishra also came down heavily on the petitioner’s counsel N Ashwani Kumar.

“Why have you created a mess in this institution? It caused pain to the chief justice… I have to decide. I cannot suppress. You have created the situation in order to secure an order. It is very unfortunate,” said the chief justice.

Related: 8 killed in stampede at event linked to Chandrababu Naidu

Advocate general explains

The state advocate general explained to the court the circumstances leading up to 12 January lunch motion.

“Whenever a lunch motion is moved, the petitioner party has to inform the AG Office about the issue. But the same was not done,” AG Sriram said.

Further, when the AG raised objections before the vacation bench that it has no roster, this was not considered, he added, noting that “as per the notification issued by the high court for vacation session… there is no provision for taking up a lunch motion”.

He also said that as the GO No 1 was issued 10 days before 12 January, the petitioner could have brought the matter before a regular court. Instead, the matter was suddenly filed before the vacation bench on the ground that the GO copies had not been submitted by the concerned authorities till the date of filing.

He said that “all these things” suggest that the lunch motion affidavit was prepared for filing before the vacation bench.

Noting that GO No 1 was a routine order issued to regulate the policy framework of the state under the Police Act, the AG said it should not have been challenged in a lunch motion.

“The chief justice is the Master of the Roster and allots subjects/work to other Judges. No Judge cant go counter to the directions of the chief justice.  Only the chief justice can give directions to the Registry,” he said.