Andhra Pradesh HC reserves order on Chandrababu Naidu’s petition to quash case

The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Tuesday reserved its orders on TDP supremo and former Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu’s quash petition in Skill Development Corporation scam in which he is currently in judicial custody.

The court refused to pass interim orders after hearing the arguments from both sides throughout the day. Appearing on behalf of Naidu, Harish Salve virtually presented his arguments. Siddharth Luthra also argued the case on behalf of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) President.

Additional Advocate General P. Sudhakar Reddy and Mukul Rohatgi presented the arguments on behalf of the state government. Naidu’s counsel argued that the case against Naidu is politically motivated with an eye on the upcoming elections. They submitted to the court that the CID did not take prior permission from the Governor before arresting Naidu as required under Section 17A of the amended Prevention of Corruption Act.

They argued that the section applied to the case as PC Act was amended in 2018 while FIR was registered in 2021. They also submitted to the court that there was no scam as six skill development centres set up with the funds released from the government are still functioning. They also argued that there is no truth in the allegation that Rs 150 crore excess amount was routed to six shell companies. Naidu’s counsel also argued if there was evidence against the former Chief Minister what was CID doing for two years.

The Additional Advocate General and Rohatgi, however, argued that Section 17A of PC Act does not apply as the CID investigation started before the amendment of July 26, 2018. They submitted details of the six companies to the court. Alleging that he was being targeted by the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) government out of political vendetta, Naidu has sought orders to set aside his judicial custody and also quash the FIR registered by the CID. Naidu was arrested in the case by the CID in Nandyal on September 9.

The next day, ACB Court in Vijayawada sent him to judicial custody for 14 days and he was subsequently shifted to Rajahmundry Central Jail. The Vijayawada court had also rejected Naidu’s plea for house custody instead of judicial custody. The case relates to the establishment of clusters of Centers of Excellence (CoEs) in Andhra Pradesh, with a total estimated project value of Rs 3,300 crore when Naidu was the Chief Minister. The CID claimed that the alleged fraud has caused a huge loss of Rs 371 crore to the state government.

The agency claimed that an advance of Rs 371 crore, representing the entire 10 per cent commitment by the government for the project, was released before any expenditure by the private entities. According to the CID, most of the money released by the government as advance was diverted to shell companies through fake invoices, with no actual delivery or sale of the items mentioned in the invoices. The CID mentioned in its remand report that the total amount spent by private entities on six skill development clusters is sourced exclusively from funds advanced by the state government and the Andhra Pradesh Skill Development Centre, totalling Rs 371 crore.

Meanwhile, Vijayawada ACB court adjourned to September 21 the hearing on CID’s petition for Naidu’s custody for five days. It also adjourned the hearing on Naidu’s bail petition. In another development, the High Court adjourned hearing on Naidu’s anticipatory bail petition in the Amaravati Inner Ring Road case to September 21.

The CID had filed a Prisoner Transit (PT) warrant petition in Vijayawada ACB Court on September 11 in the case.

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