The Central Bureau of Investigation has booked 16 individuals for posting alleged defamatory material against Supreme Court and Andhra Pradesh high court judges on social media, taking over investigations from the state CID, officials said on Monday.
The CBI, on the orders of the Andhra Pradesh high court, has taken over the investigation in 12 cases registered by the state CID on the complaint of B Rajasekhar, the registrar general of the court, the officials said.
It was alleged in the complaint that 'key personnel, who are occupying posts of prominence in the state of Andhra Pradesh, by intentionally targeting the judges, made interviews/posts/speeches attributing motives, caste and corrupt allegations to some of the Supreme Court judges and high court judges in delivering orders/judgments and they posted abusive, life threatening and intimidating postings against judges in social media, ie, Facebook, Twitter over recent orders and judgments delivered by judges of high court of Andhra Pradesh'.
On October 12, the high court directed the CBI to probe the case and submit a report to it in a sealed cover within eight weeks.
The next hearing of the case is on December 14.
Taking cognisance of the alleged defamatory posts, the court had directed the CBI to probe the role of prominent persons in the southern state, who were intentionally targeting the Supreme Court and high court judges.
'...the postings were made to bring hatred, contempt, incite disaffection and ill-will against the high court and hon'ble judges,' the court had noted.
A bench comprising Justices Rakesh Kumar and J Uma Devi had passed the order after a series of alleged derogatory posts were made on social media platforms against judges and the judiciary, following some court verdicts that went against the state government.
On the directions of the high court, its registrar general got a complaint lodged with the CID, giving names and related evidence, but the state police wing reportedly booked only nine people.
'Their comments are perilous to democracy and amounted to an attack on the judiciary. If some ordinary person makes any comment against the government, cases are promptly registered against such persons.
'When persons in positions made comments against the judges and the courts, why have cases not been filed? Looking at things, we are left to infer that a war has been declared on the judiciary,' the justices commented orally during a hearing.
The CBI office in Visakhapatnam registered the case under various sections, including 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation), of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and section 67 of the Information Technology Act.
While handing over the probe to the central agency, the high court had expressed serious displeasure over the CID investigation in its October 12 order.
It had noted that the speaker of the Andhra Pradesh legislative assembly and the deputy chief minister had also not restrained themselves from making "scathing remarks" against the judiciary.
Member of the Rajya Sabha, namely, Vijayasai Reddy, has joined together in a move to make scathing remarks against the high court.
'Such comments from the key personnel who are occupying posts of prominence, authoritative and constitutional in nature, targeting the judges, had severely affected the reputation of the judiciary as an independent institution. Thus, it appears that a concerted effort has been made to malign the institution, having a larger conspiracy,' the court had noted.
It had also named YSRC MP (Lok Sabha) Nandigam Suresh, former MLA Amanchi Krishna Mohan, standing counsel for the Andhra Pradesh assembly Metta Chandrasekhar Rao and others in the case and found fault with the CID that no proper action, as mandated under the Code of Criminal Procedure, was taken against the accused till date.