The Supreme Court has not given any immediate relief to Telugu Desam Party (TDP) National President and former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu after the latter challenged the Andhra Pradesh High Court Order which rejected his petition for quashing the FIR registered by CID in the skill development scam case and the consequential remand order of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Court in Vijayawada.
The Top Court did not pass any order on his petition on Tuesday and posted the matter for further hearing to next Monday.
The Apex Court two-judge bench, headed by Justice Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi asked State of Andhra Pradesh to produce the entire compilation of documents and records of the case, which were there before the AP HC.
The Supreme Court said, we won’t pass any order today on the former AP CM Chandrababu Naidu’s petition to quash FIR in relation to skill development scam. “We will list the matter for hearing on October 9,” the Judges said.
Senior lawyer Siddharth Luthra appearing for Naidu, desperately pleaded to the SC seeking some relief. He added mylords the person is in custody, please hear it.
Senior Advocate Harish Salve appearing for Naidu, said the whole idea of section 17A Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act was to prevent this sort of regime revenge.
“This is a pure political act. What the judge has done is.. the manner in which it has been interpreted saying that it is not retrospective, but the error lies here. This is purely about procedure and there has to be permission sought before inquiry begins,” Salve told the Apex Court.
He added that there is no reasonable connection with discharge of official duties and thus section 17A has no place in this case.
The bench raised questions about the applicability of Section 17A PC Act, when the offence was committed prior to the 2018 amendment. The bench also asked if 17A is applicable when IPC offences are also involved.
Naidu’s lawyers argued that 17A is applicable when the inquiry starts after the 2018 amendment even if the offences are prior to it. State says that the inquiry started before 2018.
Salve said that all said are mere decisions by the Chief Minister like setting up a corporation etc., could this inquiry have been conducted in teeth of section 17A without the approval of the Governor.
“You have to obtain sanction. It has nothing to do with the date of the offence, it has to do with the date of the inquiry,” Naidu raised questions the way the FIR had been registered and sanctions were not taken as per statute.
“Could this inquiry be held without the Governor’s approval as per Section 17A,” Salve questioned.
Naidu approached the Supreme Court last week, against the AP High Court order which declined to quash the FIR.
The TDP Chief 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.
In his plea, Naidu contended that Andhra Pradesh High Court had rejected his petition 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 the former Chief Minister was registered on December 9, 2021, and he was added as accused number 37 in the case. on September 7, 2023. Section 17 A 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, 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,” Naidu’s plea added.
This motivated campaign of harassment has been allowed to continue by the Courts unabated despite patent illegality in the FIR, the appeal of Naidu stated.
The ACB Court in Vijayawada had extended the judicial remand of Naidu in the case till October 5 and is currently lodged in the Rajahmundry Central Jail.