Naidu to remain in jail as HC defers plea till Sept 19
The Andhra Pradesh high court has adjourned a petition filed by TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu
Hyderabad The Andhra Pradesh high court on Wednesday adjourned to September 19 a petition filed by the chief of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) N Chandrababu Naidu seeking to quash the case filed against him by the state crime investigation department (CID) in connection with the multi-crore state skill development corporation scam.
The court, however, ordered CID cannot take Naidu’s custody until September 18, and told the special court for Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) cases in Vijayawada not to issue any order putting Naidu in CID custody until the next date of hearing.
The former chief minister moved the high court on Tuesday alleging that the first information report (FIR) filed by CID in the skill development corporation scam case was “politically motivated” and the case was foisted at the behest of chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy.
A high court bench headed by justice K Sreenivasa Reddy asked CID to file the counter-affidavit, for which additional advocate general Ponnavolu Sudhakar Reddy, arguing for the investigation agency, sought a week’s time.
The order means that Naidu, who was arrested in the case in the early hours of Saturday, will continue to be in Rajahmundry central jail, where he has been lodged on a two-week judicial remand after the ACB court rejected his bail petition. On Tuesday, the same court rejected another plea arguing that Naidu, being under the protection of National Security Guards (NSG), faced a threat in Rajahmundry jail and should be kept in house arrest.
The allegations date back to 2014, when a few months after coming to power, the Andhra Pradesh government under Chandrababu Naidu proposed the establishment of the Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation, ostensibly to develop “employability skills” for students pursuing non-professional courses and promoting entrepreneurship. The state Crime Investigation Department said that the Naidu allegedly orchestrated the transfer of public funds from government to private entities via shell companies; there was no actual delivery or sales of items on invoices; and that a portion of funds were used to create “centres of excellence” departing from official procedure. Naidu, who the CID called the “key” to the alleged scam, was arrested early on Saturday morning.
In his petition filed in the high court, a copy of which was reviewed by HT, Naidu challenged the case filed by CID asserting that he was falsely implicated. He also claimed that there was a clear statutory violation of Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act in the case. Section 17A deals with the need for prior sanction to inquire into the actions taken by public servants in the discharge of their official duties. Since he was the former chief minister of the state, it was mandatory for CID to obtain the permission of the governor before arresting him, the petition argued.
The TDP chief pointed out that though the case was registered in 2021, his name came into the picture only in 2022 through the statement of a co-accused. He said all the “averments in the remand report are vague”, there are no specific allegations prima facie made out against him, and CID has failed to collect any preliminary evidence.
Naidu also questioned the jurisdiction of the trial court, arguing that the competent court would be the special court for MPs and MLAs as he is presently a sitting MLA from .
He, therefore, sought interim relief by way of staying all further proceedings in the case pending disposal of the case.
In a related development, the high court deferred to September 19 another petition of Naidu seeking anticipatory bail in the case filed against him by the CID in the Amaravati inner ring road case.
Senior TDP legislator and Public Accounts Committee chairman Payyavula Kesav said on Wednesday that the ruling YSR Congress was to disrupt the TDP, the arrests would not stop with Naidu, and that the fear of losing power was haunting chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy. “More TDP leaders may face a similar situation in the coming days, as the main aim of the ruling party is to completely destabilise the TDP,” Kesav said,
The CID however maintained on Wednesday that Naidu was key to the alleged scam, right from its inception. N Sanjay, additional director general of the CID said, “Naidu’s handwritten signatures can be seen at 13 different places in various documents pertaining to release of funds, budget approval, and council meetings.”
The arrest comes at a time when YSR Congress party insiders have been left worried by political surveys that suggest that the TDP may be gaining heft in Andhra Pradesh. While the party has questioned the veracity of such surveys and pointed to their historical inaccuracies in predicting eventual election results, members of the party said that several senior leaders have alerted the top brass of pressing concerns in their respective areas.