VIJAYAWADA: The High Court of Andhra Pradesh on Tuesday reserved its judgement in the petition filed by former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, seeking that the case booked against him in the alleged Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation (APSSDC) scam be quashed.
Senior Supreme Court advocates Harish Salve and Siddharth Luthra contended that Naidu was a victim of ‘regime revenge’.Citing previous orders of the apex court, they argued that as the FIR in the case was registered in 2021, the Andhra Pradesh Crime Investigation Department (APCID) had to get the Governor’s prior approval as per Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act for arresting the TDP supremo.
On the other hand, senior counsels Mukul Rohatgi, Ranjit Kumar and additional advocate general Ponnavolu Sudhakar Reddy maintained that the State does not need to obtain prior sanction to investigate Naidu. They submitted that the act of fabricating records and misappropriating funds cannot be termed an ‘official duty.’The arguments continued for around five hours in hybrid mode as Salve was not present in the court.
Pointing out that the Assembly elections were just a few months away, Naidu’s counsels termed the case ‘politically motivated’. They sought to know how the petitioner could influence witnesses or tamper with evidence, if - according to the CID - all documents have been gathered and investigation is complete.
Stating that only 10 per cent of the project cost was borne by the State government, Salve informed the court that the money was used to set up skill development centres, which were running successfully now. Meanwhile, the State’s counsels said Naidu’s actions were deliberate, and calculated and caused hefty loss to the exchequer.
Explaining that Section 17A of the PC Act which mandates prior sanction to investigate offences related to recommendations made or decisions taken by a public servant in the discharge of official functions or duties, Rohatgi contended that actions of fabricating records and misappropriating funds cannot be termed as official duty.
The State’s counsel informed the court that the exchequer incurred a loss of Rs 371 crore due to Naidu’s actions. They further asserted that the former CM was arrested only after the investigating agency gathered all evidence to prove the charges against him. They added the Income Tax as well as the ED has started investigating the scam.
The CID also said it needs to further investigate the alleged scam and urged the court not to give any orders that would hamper the process of investigation. After hearing both sides, the court reserved its orders.
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