SC stays AP High Court gag order on media in Amaravati land scam case

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A three-judge Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, MR Shah and Subhash Reddy has also restrained the HC from deciding the matter related to alleged irregularities in land transaction in Amaravati till January end

The Supreme Court on Wednesday, November 25, stayed an order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court restraining the media from reporting an FIR filed by the AP anti-corruption bureau against a former legal officer and others over land purchase in Amaravati.

The Court also issued notice in the plea filed by the state government on barring investigation into the FIR filed in relation to the scam. A three-judge Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, MR Shah and Subhash Reddy has also restrained the HC from deciding the matter related to alleged irregularities in land transaction in Amaravati till January end.

The apex court passed the order while hearing an appeal filed by Andhra Pradesh government against the September 15 order of High Court, which passed the order on a petition filed by former Advocate General of the State on the grounds that he apprehended coercive steps against him by the State machinery.

Appearing for the former AG, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi sought to justify the reason for approaching the High Court with such urgency. He argued that the letter against the AG was forwarded to CBI as he appeared in 25 corruption cases which had been levelled against Chief Minister, Jagan Mohan Reddy.

“I had urged the High Court to hear it immediately as it tarnished reputation of a lawyer with standing of 30 years. My client is targeted because he was appearing for the (former) CM. This case reeks of malafide. This is worse than Emergency. CBI did not do anything. My reputation is being damaged," Rohtagi argued.

Appearing for the state government today, Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhavan submitted that the entire High Court order was based on a letter sent by the State to the CBI on March 23 this year. Pointing out that interim relief was granted after it was contended that the "government was running the State in utter disregard of the Constitution", Dhavan questioned whether the same could be grounds for relief in a criminal case.

The Jagan Mohan Reddy government had mounted a challenge against the High Court order, primarily stating that the order came to be passed in relation to an FIR which itself was not questioned.

Moreover, while only one petitioner had moved the High Court seeking relief in terms of protection from coercive action and a bar on media reportage, the order passed by the High Court extends the relief to all the other accused persons as well (with inputs from Bar & Bench and Indian Express)

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