A petition filed by Telugu Desam Party’s (TDP) president and ex-chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, N Chandrababu Naidu, was dismissed by the Andhra Pradesh high court on Friday. The petition aimed to quash a case against Naidu, lodged by the Crime Investigation Department (CID), over the alleged ‘skill development scam’ amounting to Rs.371 crore. Justice K Sreenivas Reddy, who presided over the high court bench, delivered the judgement on Friday after reserving his decision on September 19, following a lengthy five-hour hearing on Naidu’s quash petition.
The high court’s decision was announced shortly after the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) court in Vijayawada extended Naidu’s judicial custody until September 24. More details regarding the judgement are yet to be disclosed.
During the hearing on September 19, Harish Salve, a former solicitor general of India, and Siddharth Luthra, a senior advocate, both argued for Naidu. They claimed the CID had not adhered to due process prior to Naidu’s arrest in relation to the skill development corporation swindle. Salve highlighted that under Section 17 (A) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, the CID had not sought the necessary permission from the competent authority, the governor of Andhra Pradesh, prior to Naidu’s arrest. He contended that no case was made as the project was operational, and there was no evidence to suggest public funds were misappropriated.
On the other hand, Additional Advocate General Ponnavolu Sudhakar Reddy and senior lawyer Mithun Rastogi, representing the CID, argued that no sanction was required from the competent authority to investigate Naidu’s involvement in the scam. They claimed that Naidu had intentionally participated in the scam, resulting in significant losses to the exchequer. Rastogi provided certain emails to the court to demonstrate Naidu’s awareness of the project’s inflated costs, despite which he continued with it in a private partnership. He stated that such actions of fabricating records and misappropriating funds could not be categorised as official duties under Section 17-A of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Meanwhile, Naidu’s judicial remand was extended by two more days, until September 24, by the special court for the ACB in Vijayawada. Naidu was arrested on September 9 by the CID of Andhra Pradesh Police in connection with the skill development corporation scam. He was then produced before the ACB court at Vijayawada on September 10, which remanded him into judicial custody until September 22. He was subsequently moved to Rajahmundry Central Jail in the early hours of September 11.
Naidu, through a video conference from Rajahmundry jail, was presented before the ACB court on Friday morning as his 14-day judicial remand was set to end. The judge, after extending Naidu’s judicial remand, inquired about any potential inconveniences he may have faced during the remand. The judge reassured Naidu that his current situation was not punishment but rather a judicial process in accordance with the law, and that the allegations against him were still under investigation.
Naidu expressed distress over his supposed illegal arrest by the CID, stating his arrest was completely unjust and illegal. He reiterated his long-standing 45-year tenure in public service and maintained that he was arrested without any notice. He expressed his belief in the law and his hope for justice to prevail.
Earlier this week, a petition filed by Naidu seeking house arrest was rejected by the special ACB court. The court cited the adequate security provided in Rajahmundry jail and deemed there was no need for house arrest.