The bench passed the order while disposing of a suo motu (taken up on its own) public interest litigation petition, based on a report filed by the Principal District Judge, Nellore.
On the intervening night of April 13-14, thieves broke into the court of fourth additional judicial magistrate of first class in Nellore and made good their escape with a bag containing laptop, mobile phones and several documents related to a criminal case of 2016 filed against Govardhan Reddy and three others by the then Agriculture Minister Somireddy Chandramohan Reddy of the TDP.
The bag was later found dumped in a culvert but with the crucial documents and other material evidence missing.
The theft occurred only five days after Govardhan Reddy was sworn-in as a minister.
Somireddy filed a criminal case of forgery and fabricating documents, besides criminal defamation, against YSRC’s Govardhan Reddy, then an MLA from Sarvepalli Assembly constituency.
Upon establishing forgery, police filed a charge-sheet in the court in 2017 and the case trial was supposed to start in May.
The theft of crucial evidence happened against this backdrop.
The Principal District Judge, who conducted a preliminary inquiry in April, reported to the High Court that the four police personnel on court guard duty failed in their duty.
He further stated that the police concerned did not collect footprints and fingerprints on the main door, which was broken open by the miscreants, and did not even call the dog squad to the scene of crime.
The Principal District Judge opined, prima facie, that truth might come to light only if investigation was handed over to an independent agency, the High Court bench said.
The judges also noted that the Supreme Court directed fast-tracking of cases (against elected public representatives) and monitoring by the High Courts.
“When such importance is accorded to criminal cases against MLAs and MPs, the court concerned at Nellore as well as the state machinery, including the law enforcing agency, should have taken due care and caution to secure the case property.
Otherwise, in the absence of case property, being produced and proved in the court, the trial against MLAs and MPs may fail for lack of evidence,” the HC bench said.
“It is for this reason the matter assumes importance. If timely and proper steps are not taken to book the culprits, people at large may lose faith in the judicial process. It is necessary to reach to the root of the incident as to who are involved in theft of case property, wherein influential people are accused,” Chief Justice Mishra and Justice Somayajulu observed. PTI DBV ROH ROH