Chandrababu Naidu gets bail in AP Skill Development case, State govt to move SC

“The High Court’s approach towards the bail petition has the trappings of a full-fledged trial on the merits of the allegations in an ongoing investigation,” AAG Ponnolu Sudhakar Reddy observed.

Published: 20th November 2023 04:15 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st November 2023 10:33 AM   |  A+A-

TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu

TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu (Photo | Express)

By Express News Service

VIJAYAWADA: The High Court of Andhra Pradesh on Monday granted bail to TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu in the Skill Development Corporation (APSSDC) case. Earlier, the court had granted four-week interim bail to the former chief minister on grounds of medical treatment.

Arguments on Naidu’s regular bail plea concluded on November 17, following which the court had reserved its verdict.

Justice T Mallikarjuna Rao said conditions imposed on the TDP leader while granting interim bail would be applicable only till November 28. Thereafter, he can attend political meetings and rallies, the judge added.

However, Naidu has to appear before the ACB special court in Vijayawada in person on November 30 to submit reports about his medical treatment. 

On the other hand, the State government has decided to approach the Supreme Court against the bail granted to Naidu. 

‘It’s unnecessary to give lengthy reasons for bail’

Additional Advocate General (AAG) Ponnolu Sudhakar Reddy observed, “The order passed by the High Court is far in excess of the jurisdiction of bail parameters as repeatedly held by the Supreme Court.”

Finding fault with the approach of the HC, the AAG said, “The High Court acted beyond its jurisdiction in making observations about the material, its relevance, its evidence-worthiness, and the gaps in investigation, when it is still underway.” 

“The High Court’s approach towards the bail petition has the trappings of a full-fledged trial on the merits of the allegations in an ongoing investigation," he added.

Accusing the TDP leaders of obstructing the investigation by taking advantage of the hearing of the bail plea, he said the party did not furnish the information as sought by the CID.  

“The HC stepping into the trial court’s orders in pronouncing on the merits of the matter and professing not to go into the merits of the case is really alarming,” he added.

Stating that the petitioners did not submit arguments when the bail petition was taken up, the AAG said the CID has flagged the same before the court. 

‘It’s unnecessary to give lengthy reasons for bail’

“The High Court’s approach towards the bail petition has the trappings of a full-fledged trial on the merits of the allegations in an ongoing investigation,” AAG Ponnolu Sudhakar Reddy observed.

APCID had arrested Naidu for his alleged role in the APSSDC case, in Nandyal on September 9. Subsequently, he was remanded to judicial custody and was lodged at the Rajamahendravaram Central Jail, where he spent 52 days before being granted interim bail on October 31.

In its 39-page bail order, the Court explained that though a detailed examination of the evidence must be avoided while considering the question of bail to ensure there is no prejudging or prejudice, a brief examination is necessary to be satisfied with the existence or otherwise of a prima facie case.

The order pointed out that the APCID had registered a case based on a complaint filed by the current APSSDC chairman on September 7, 2021.

The skill development corporation was incorporated by GO 47 on December 13, 2013. After SIEMENS proposed to impart training in technology in collaboration with various other State governments, APSSDC deputed a team to visit SIEMENS’ Centres of Excellence in Gujarat, and submit a report. 

The APSSDC scam, involving `370 crore, first came to light after the Director General of Goods and Services Tax Intelligence (DGSTI) sent a letter to the then DG of the ACB in the State, highlighting concerns in the project in respect of claims of availing of CENVAT (Central Value Added Tax) credit by DesignTech Systems and Skillar Enterprises.

This reportedly led to unearthing of a huge financial scam, involving crores of rupees, by SIEMENS Industry Software India (SISW) and DesignTech Systems and funds related to the APSSDC.

It was argued that as the previous government headed by Naidu did not take any action into the matter, a regular inquiry was ordered to probe the contents of the whistleblower’s petition on June 5, 2018. However, the inquiry was not conducted till the petitioner’s regime ended.

Based on the forensic audit report by Sarath & Associates, and on the request of the current APSSDC MD, investigation into the case was entrusted to the APCID. It was contended that Rs 370 crore was swindled/transferred into various shell companies and that several accused persons, including Naidu, withdrew this amount in cash.

However, the court observed that no material was submitted to substantiate the contention regarding the petitioner withdrawing the amount in cash.

On the argument that money was deposited in the bank account of the TDP and that the timeline of the same aligned with the alleged misappropriation of APSSDC funds and their diversion, the judge said,

“No prima facie evidence has been presented to support this claim. Such serious allegations should be backed by substantial material before seeking the petitioner’s remand. The court, at this point, views the lack of supportive material as a gap in the investigation’s conclusion in the matter.”

The court also said it is unconvinced by the petitioner’s claim that the case was politically motivated as a regime revenge by the present government. Regarding arguments that the Income Tax authorities examined the petitioner’s role and found fraudulent transactions, the court said no supporting material has been presented.

Stating that it cannot enter into an in-depth analysis of the case while considering a bail application, the court observed, “It is also unnecessary to give lengthy reasons at the time of granting bail. This is a matter that will, of course, be dealt with by the trial judge.”

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