No merit in Chandrababu Naidu’s quash plea: Andhra Pradesh HC

The court also did not give merit to the arguments of Naidu’s counsel that there was no material on record to show that no offences were made out against the petitioner.
No merit in Chandrababu Naidu’s quash plea: Andhra Pradesh HC

VIJAYAWADA: In a setback to TDP supremo and former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, the Andhra Pradesh High Court on Friday dismissed his quash petition in the Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation (APSSDC) case. Observing that the plea was devoid of merit, the court observed that it cannot conduct a mini-trial on a petition filed under CrPC Section 482 (quash petition).

In the 68-page order, Justice K Sreenivasa Reddy pointed out that the AP Crime Investigation Department (APCID), which registered a case in 2021, had examined more than 140 witnesses and collected more than 4,000 documents pertaining to the case.

While dismissing the petition, the judge ruled, “Profligacy is such an esoteric subject, where investigation has to be carried with utmost proficiency by the professionals. At this stage, when the investigation is on fulcrum of attaining finality, this court is not inclined to interfere with the impugned proceedings.”The court heard the arguments of both the sides three days ago and reserved its orders. Naidu’s counsels had asserted that the former chief minister was a victim of ‘regime revenge’.

They contended that the CID had failed to get approval of the Governor as per Section 17 (A) of the Prevention of Corruption Act before arresting Naidu. Appearing for the TDP chief, Harish Salve argued that the instrumentality of the State (CID) was being weaponised for using the force of criminal law in a clear abuse of the process of law.

Arguing on behalf of the APCID, Mukul Rohatgi said Section 17A of the PC Act does not bar the police from conducting an investigation for the reason that the petitioner herein, being the Head of the Executive Government, was involved in a calculated and deliberate scam, by virtue of which about Rs 370 crore public money has been misappropriated. As Section 17A was inserted in the PC Act, 1988 through an amendment on July 26, 2018, both the sides argued whether or not it will have retrospective effect.

Justice Sreenivasa Reddy noted that the ACB had ordered a regular inquiry into the allegations of corruption against the APSSDC officials on June 5, 2018, following a letter from the CBI on October 2017. This was much before the insertion of provision, the court observed.

Citing various judgements of the Supreme Court as well as High Courts of other States, Justice Reddy explained that the intention behind the enactment of Section 17A of the PC Act was only to protect public servants in bona fide discharge of official functions or duties. However, when the act of the public servant is ex-facie criminal or constitutes an offence, prior approval of a competent authority would not be necessary, he said.

“The decision taken or recommendation made by petitioner to grant sanction for payment of money on the basis of the documents and committing misappropriation of amount cannot be considered as acts done by him in discharge of his official duties or functions. Therefore, no prior approval from the competent authority was necessary for an investigation into the offences alleged,” the order read.

The court also did not give merit to the arguments of Naidu’s counsel that there was no material on record to show that no offences were made out against the petitioner, no steps were taken to assess the misappropriation of the APSSDC funds in the Siemens Project and though a regular inquiry was ordered by the ACB, nothing has been elicited during the tenure of the petitioner as CM.

On the other hand, the CID’s counsel said the court should not interfere with the proceedings as the probe is at a nascent stage. Meanwhile, sources said though TDP general secretary Nara Lokesh intended to reach Rajahmundry by Friday evening, he remained in Delhi to hold consultations with SC advocates on the way forward.

APCID gets 2-day custody of Naidu

Sept 23, 24: CID sleuths can quiz TDP chief in Rajahmundry Central Prison
9:30 am - 5 pm:  Time allocated for interrogation into APSSDC scam
 5-min break every one hour
  One hour lunch break for Chandrababu Naidu from 1-2 pm
 Investigation should be videographed
  Former chief minister to undergo medical tests before probe

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