New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday vacated the AP High Court’s order gagging the media from reporting an FIR filed in Amaravati land case allegedly involving the state’s former advocate general Dammalapati Srinivas.
While lifting the HC order restraining the media from reporting the FIR registered on Se-ptember 15, 2020, Justice Ashok Bhushan, heading a bench also compri-sing Justice R. Subhash Reddy and Justice M.R. Shah, however, did not interfere with the HC order against any coercive action against the former law officer of the State and stalling the investigation into the FIR. The High Court by its September 15, 2020 order had said, “It is further directed that the news about registration of FIR or in the context of the said FIR shall not be made public in any electronic, print or social media, to foist the office of a former Advocate General and also with respect to the other alleged accused persons.”
The top court asked the High Court not to finally decide the petition filed by Dammalapati Srinivas against the registration of the FIR as it directed the listing of the matter in the week commencing from January 25, 2021.
While not issuing a notice to Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy as the High Court too had not issued a notice to him, the top court issued notice to the head of the state police, Director General, Anti-Corruption Bureau and the head of the state intelligence department. Dammalapati Srinivas, who had filed a caveat, was represented by senior counsels Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi.
Assailing the interim order of the High Court directing no coercive action against former advocate-general Srinivas stalling of the investigation into the FIR and gagging media from reporting the FIR, senior counsel Rajeev Dhawan told the court that investigation into the FIR could not have been blocked.
On the gag order, Dhavan cited the top court’s constitution bench judgment in the Sahara case where it was held that reporting of the proceedings in criminal matters could only be postponed and not barred.
He said that the petition by Srinivas was filed on September 15 and that very day at 5.30 pm, the High Court heard the matter and passed the interim order.
Describing as unprecedented “the manner in which the High Court had passed the order”, Dhavan said that the High Court could not have passed such an interim order at all.
Meeting the arguments, senior counsel Harish Salve contended that the entire action of the AP government against the former advocate-general Srinivas was mala fide and was a case of “regime revenge” as the former advocate general had appeared against Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy in a number of criminal matters. The apex court was informed that Jagan Mohan Reddy is facing 25 cases.
Rohatgi too said that the action of the state government reeks of malafide and the former law officer with over three decades standing at the bar could not have been targeted in such a manner.
Dhavan described as “rhetorical” Salve’s argument of “regime revenge” which he (Dhavan) had earlier used in a case against late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and wondered whether former law officers couldn’t commit a crime....