Amravati land scam: SC stays HC gag order against media

SC stays Andhra Pradesh HC order gagging media from publishing news on FIR related to Amravati land scam

The apex court passed the order while hearing an appeal filed by Andhra Pradesh government

Supreme Court. Credit: PTI Photo

The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the Andhra Pradesh High Court's September 15 order gagging the media from reporting a case of alleged corruption and illegal land transactions in shifting of state capital to Amravati.

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah stayed the HC's interim order which prohibited publication of news with regard to the registration of an FIR in any electronic, print or social media.

The top court, however, issued notice to former Advocate General Dammalapati Srinivas and others on whose plea the HC had passed the order.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the Y S Jaganmohan Reddy government, contended that the HC order was unprecedented as it acted on a writ petition which was "entirely of political nature against the Chief Minister and the state government".

"When there were allegations against certain land transfers, should it not be investigated?" he asked.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the former A-G, submitted that as many as 25 criminal cases were pending against the Chief Minister and the present government wanted to destroy reputation of this lawyer.

Dhavan said even the CBI was sent a letter on March 23 for probe, the HC, however, passed the order not only staying the probe but also publication of news regarding it.

He also referred to bland allegations made in the petition like "there was utter disregard of the Constitution" which can't be the basis for relief in a criminal case.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for other parties, submitted that the HC can very well deal with the matter and the top court should not interfere. But there was a vote of no confidence against the HC and the CM made allegations against the Chief Justice. The case is about "regime revenge", he said.

The court, however, said the matter required consideration and put it for hearing in January. It also sought a response from the parties in the petition.

The state government, in its petition filed by advocate Mahfooz A Nazki, sought stay on the HC's order, saying "the investigation process is at a nascent stage and the stay of the investigation may lead to destruction of material documents, tampering of evidence and evasion of the investigation process".

It said the HC's order, granting blanket stay, was erroneous, illegal, perverse and liable to be set aside as the accused persons did not enjoy any immunity or privilege.