Skill development scam: SC reserves verdict on Chandrababu Naidu’s plea for quashing of FIR

Skill development scam: SC reserves verdict on Chandrababu Naidu's plea for quashing of FIR

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its judgment on a plea filed former Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu seeking to quash the FIR
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New Delhi [India]: The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its judgment on a plea filed former Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu seeking to quash the FIR registered against him in the skill development scam case.

Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi reserved its verdict after hearing the arguments of senior advocates Harish Salve and Sidhartha Luthra, appearing for Naidu, and Mukul Rohatgi, representing the Andhra Pradesh government.

As the hearing was at the fag end, Salve urged the bench to give Naidu interim bail and said, “He is a 73-year-old man who has been inside for 40 days. I have a request for interim bail. Court may consider releasing him. If you eventually rule against him, he can go back. In the 2015-16 inquiry, the government’s lament was that nothing came out of it. Now, in 2021, they are desperately grasping at straws.”

The bench, however, rejected the request and stated in the order, “Hearing concluded. We have heard the main matter and we will deliver the judgment.”

Meanwhile, the bench posted for hearing on Friday another plea of Naidu in FiberNet scam case. It also extended its earlier order asking the government not to arrest Naidu till October 20, Friday. He has also challenged the Andhra Pradesh High Court order denying him anticipatory bail in the FiberNet scam case.

Naidu had approached the top court seeking quashing of FIR and cited Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, to challenge his arrest by the Andhra Pradesh police’s CID in skill development scam. He had challenged the High Court judgment rejecting his plea for the quashing of FIR. Naidu is currently in judicial custody.

Naidu has sought quashing of FIR registered by AP-CID in the alleged Rs 371 crore skill development scam on the ground that the police did not obtain prior sanction from the Governor as mandated under Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act.

Andhra Pradesh government has objected to Naidu’s plea saying Section 17A of the PC Act can’t parachute in the cases of alleged corruption leading to loss to the State exchequer that happened before its insertion in the Act on July 26, 2018.

Section 17A, inserted in July 2018 by way of an amendment, requires the investing agencies to take prior sanction of the competent authorities for the registration of FIR and initiating “inquiry, enquiry or investigation” against a public servant responsible for the decision or recommendation resulting loss to the State exchequer and corruption.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Andhra Pradesh, had told the top court that no prior sanction of the State Governor was required for registering FIR and the consequent investigation against former Chief Minister Naidu for alleged corruption and loss to the State in his skill development project during 2014-2016.

In his plea, Naidu has contended that Andhra Pradesh High Court had rejected his petition last moth by ignoring his pleading that under Section 17A of the PC Act, which came into force from July 26, 2018, no FIR against a public servant could be registered without prior sanction of the appropriate authority.

The FIR against Naidu was registered on December 9, 2021, and he was added as accused number 37 in the case on September 7, 2023. Section 17A of PC Act was not complied with as “no permission was obtained from the competent authority”, the plea stated.

As Naidu was the Chief Minister at the time of the commission of the alleged offence relating to the skill development scam, the competent authority would have been the Governor of the State.

Naidu, presently the Leader of Opposition, the national president of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), called the action against him as “an orchestrated campaign of regime revenge and to derail the largest opposition, the Telugu Desam Party”.

“The extent of the political vendetta, is further demonstrated from the belated application for grant of police custody on September 11, 2023, which names the political opponent i.e. the TDP and also the petitioner’s family, which is being targeted to crush all opposition to the party in power in the State with elections coming near in 2024,” it added.

This motivated campaign of harassment has been allowed to continue by the Courts unabated despite patent illegality in the FIR, the appeal stated.

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