Terming the Telangana High Court’s directions as “atrocious and unacceptable”, the Supreme Court on Monday set aside its order asking the CBI, probing the murder of former Andhra Pradesh Minister Y S Vivekananda Reddy, to provide a written questionnaire to YSR Congress Party Lok Sabha member Y S Avinash Reddy who is under the central agency’s scanner.
The top court, however, said the high court can proceed with the hearing on the anticipatory bail plea of the lawmaker on April 25 without being influenced by its observations.
A bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha was very critical of the high court for its direction to the CBI to provide a written questionnaire to Avinash Reddy well in advance and prepare and print the question and answer, observing that it is “atrocious and unacceptable”.
“What is this? If this is the stand of the investigating agency, then it is time to wind up the CBI.. first the interim protection was granted, then CBI was asked to give questionnaire. This will turn upside down the criminal jurisprudence,” the bench orally observed.
Setting aside the high court order, the bench said such an order deciding the mode of the probe will stultify the investigation and refused to protect Avinash Reddy from arrest for the next 24 hours, as was vehemently sought by senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, the lawmaker’s counsel.
Terming the high court order “unwarranted”, it said, “The findings of the high court at this stage were premature, particularly in the context of what has been stated by the CBI in its affidavit … having regard to what is stated by the CBI on affidavit, we are clearly of the view that the high court has misapplied itself and passed an extraordinary order in terms of the directions which have been issued.”
The top court noted the high court directed that the lawmaker may not appear for investigation apprehending arrest and seek alternative remedies.
It noted the high court also directed that the lawmaker “shall attend the office of the CBI between April 19 and 25, 2023 and that (1) the questions and answers shall be in printed/ written form, (2) The questionnaire may also be handed over to the first respondent.”
“An order of this nature will stultify the investigation. There is absolutely no warrant for the High Court to direct that investigation of a person who is being interrogated as a suspect in conspiracy should be in a printed or written form,” the bench said.
It was inappropriate on the part of the high court to observe that the questionnaire may also be handed over to the lawmaker, it said, adding such orders “prejudice the course of investigation”.
“Particularly at the stage when the CBI has to investigate a crime, the role of several accused … we are of the view that the directions issued by the high court were unwarranted. We accordingly allow the appeal and set aside the impugned order of the high court,” it ordered.
Reddy is a nephew of Y S Vivekananda Reddy and Andhra Pradesh Chief minister Y S Jaganmohan Reddy’s cousin.
It also rejected the vehement submissions Avinash Reddy be protected from arrest for at least 24 hours as the anticipatory bail plea is listed for hearing on April 25 before the Telangana High Court.
“Few minutes back, you wanted to withdraw the plea itself. For us, in a normal case, we would have allowed withdrawal of the anticipatory bail plea and moved on. But in this case we had to say that the high court cannot pass such orders. We were really perturbed by the high court order. If the CBI had to arrest you, they would have done it earlier. The CBI has shown utmost restraint,” the bench said.
Earlier on April 21, the top court had also termed as “atrocious and unacceptable” the HC order and stayed the protection from arrest granted till April 25 to Avinash Reddy in the murder of Vivekananda Reddy.
The top court had also stayed the high court order directing the CBI to give a questionnaire to Avinash Reddy in connection with the probe. The apex court had also asked the CBI not to arrest Avinash Reddy till Monday.
The top court was hearing a plea filed by Suneetha Narreddy, daughter of Y S Vivekananda Reddy, challenging the high court order.
Vivekananda Reddy, one of the brothers of the late Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, was found murdered at his residence in Pulivendula in Kadapa district on the night of March 15, 2019, weeks before the Assembly elections in the state.
The Telangana High Court on April 18 directed the YSRCP MP to appear for examination before the CBI every day and granted him protection from arrest till April 25.
In an interim order on the anticipatory bail plea of Avinash Reddy, the court asked him to cooperate with the central agency and appear before it daily till April 25.
Avinash Reddy filed the anticipatory bail petition in the high court ahead of appearing before the CBI.
His father Y S Bhaskar Reddy, uncle of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, was arrested by the CBI on April 16 in connection with the murder of Vivekananda Reddy.
The murder case was initially probed by a special investigation team (SIT) of the state CID but was handed over to the CBI in July 2020.
The CBI filed a charge sheet in the murder case on October 26, 2021 and followed it up with a supplementary charge sheet on January 31, 2022.