If Judge K Ravinder Reddy's judgment in the Mecca Masjid blast case of 2007, acquitting all accused wasn't surprising enough, his resignation from the post of the IV Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge within hours of delivering the verdict, was even more startling. The verdict meant that even 11 years after the terror attack at the most holy place of worship for Muslims, no one knew who planted the bombs. No one quite knew the reasons behind Reddy's dramatic decision to quit either.
But the timing of his resignation led to speculation over whether his decision had anything to do with the verdict, and conspiracy theories flew thick and fast. In his resignation letter, Reddy cited "personal reasons" for his decision. He urged that his resignation be accepted and proceeded on leave for 15 days.
Reddy's four-page letter, also sent to the Acting Chief Justice of the Hyderabad High Court Ramesh Ranganathan, also reportedly referred to the delay in the bifurcation of the judiciary even four years after the formation of Telangana. In 2016, Reddy was at the forefront of the agitation by the judiciary in Telangana over the issue as the Telangana Judges Association president and was also suspended on disciplinary grounds. He had led the agitation by over 100 judges against provisional allocation of judicial officers between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
But these reasons hardly sound convincing and even if they were true, did not merit resigning soon after such an important verdict. But maybe that was precisely the intention. Judge Reddy perhaps wanted people to connect the dots.
But in light of other revelations, this may be just a red herring.
On 11 December, 2017, M Krishna Reddy, a businessman from Hyderabad filed an affidavit in the high court accused the judge of "corrupt practices" and asked the court to probe them. The affidavit points out that in a case relating to forgery of documents to stake a claim to property, the accused was granted anticipatory bail out of turn. This, despite the accused being denied anticipatory bail on three previous occasions.
"The curiosity shown by the learned judge in taking up the bail petition on a war-footing, itself is sufficient to arrive at a conclusion that he was eager and highly interested to dispose of it, for reasons best known to him," the affidavit said. It also pointed out that the judge was only in charge of the court for two days, during which he granted bail without referring to the counter filed by the prosecution.
But would this complaint have been enough to provoke Judge Reddy to put in his papers? Perhaps, given the overdrive by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB). In the past month, the ACB has arrested three judges who presided over lower courts in three separate cases of corruption. Lawyers practicing in the high court say this is part of the Chief Justice's insistence on probity among the judges and taking a very serious view of any allegation of corruption against any of them. The three cases were in fact sent to the ACB after an initial inquiry by the high court, although one does not know if Reddy's case based on the 2017 complaint too had been investigated.
The judges arrested by the ACB include M Gandhi of the labour court, Radhakrishna Murthy who is the first additional metropolitan sessions judge in Hyderabad and S Madhu, first additional junior civil judge in Jagtial. Property worth Rs 3.57 crore were recovered from Gandhi and he has been denied bail. Madhu was arrested for allegedly forcing two advocates to pay Rs 60,000 as a bribe to acquit their clients. Murthy was accused of accepting Rs 7.5 lakh to grant bail to an accused in a narcotics-related case.
But does quitting help Judge Reddy's case? Not really, because if the corruption charges against him are found to be prima facie true, the ACB will be asked to proceed against him like it did in the other three cases. This has led to speculation over whether he was nudged to put in his papers.
But it is the larger question that is worrying. If there is any evidence of corruption found against Judge Reddy, it would cast a shadow on the Mecca Masjid verdict he delivered on Monday.
A judge has to be seen as absolutely non-corrupt and immune to any sort of influence. If it is proved that he could be influenced to grant anticipatory bail to an accused in a petty property-related case, his verdict in the Mecca Masjid case — that has larger political and social implications — would also come under a cloud.
Lawyers familiar with the arguments made in the Mecca Masjid case, however point out that it would be too early to jump the gun. They point out that the prosecution did not present strong enough arguments to nail the five accused and Judge Reddy would have found it difficult to convince himself that those in the dock had indeed carried out or masterminded the terror plot.
There is also speculation that Judge Reddy quit in order to join Telangana Jana Samiti, a political party recently formed by Professor M Kodandaram, who led the Telangana movement along with K Chandrasekhar Rao. Kodandaram and KCR fell out after the formation of Telangana and the professor is now one of the most bitter critics of the chief minister. Kodandaram however denied he even knew the judge, leave alone the possibility of Judge Reddy joining his party.
Updated Date: Apr 17, 2018 09:23 AM