Court battle on for dismissal of remand report; CID insists on 15-day custody of Chandrababu Naidu

At one point, Naidu argued for himself and said criminal proceedings couldn't be initiated for Cabinet decisions approved by the Assembly.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Sep 10, 2023 | 11:56 AMUpdatedSep 10, 2023 | 7:25 PM

Chandrababu Naidu SIT

A full-blown courtroom battle has been underway since daybreak on Sunday, 10 September, in the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Court in Vijayawada for the dismissal of the remand report which sought judicial custody for 15 days of TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu.

Naidu was arrested in a pre-dawn swoop from Nandyal on Saturday for his alleged role in the ₹371 crore skill development scam when he was the chief minister of the state between 2014 and 2019.

Supreme court lawyer Siddhartha Luthra and his team were waging the battle and, at one stage, Naidu, with the permission of the court, argued for himself.

Related: Police arrest Naidu for alleged role in skill development scam

He contended that he had nothing to do with the scam and argued that the budget which was approved by the Assembly cannot be challenged by filing criminal charges. He said that the state Cabinet had cleared the setting up of the Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation (APSSDC).

He also said that as of 9 December, 2021, his name was not in the FIR. In the remand report filed then, the CID did not frame any charges against him and argued said his arrest on Saturday was illegal and politically motivated.

Additional AG Ponnavolu Sudhakar Reddy, who appeared for the CID, said Naidu was presented in court within 24 hours as required by law. He said that the CID arrested him in Nandyal at 6 am and that the CID had arrested eight persons so far in the skill development scam.

Related: Naidu, party ultimate beneficiaries of skill development scam: CID

Naidu seeks rejection of remand report

Chandrababu Naidu sought outright rejection of the remand report in limine as there was no clear statutory violation as per Section 17-A of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), 1988.

He argued that as he was the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh when the alleged offence had taken place, and the person who could remove him from office was the Governor. The prosecution has to obtain prior sanction of the Governor even to initiate inquiry in the case, which it did not, he pointed out.

He said that the alleged offences related to policy decisions taken by the Cabinet and approved by the Assembly and, as such, it was a decision of the state government which cannot be questioned by initiating criminal proceedings.

He pleaded with the court to reject the remand of the petitioner which was in violation of the statutory provisions under Section 17-A of the PCA and without any prima facie accusation.

Related: Pawan Kalyan arrested as he takes land route to Vijayawada

What the remand report says

The CID, in its remand report, sought 15 days judicial custody of Naidu under Section 167 of CrPC, though the former chief minister was listed as Accused No 1 in the FIR, in the remand report he was shown as Accused No 37, or A-37, which indicated that the CID will file another memo about the change of status.

The CID said that the arrest became necessary as the issue involved the misappropriation of at least ₹279 crore in a government project (development of centres of excellence in a tie-up with the private firm Siemens).

The investigation agency said that after reaching the office of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) at Kunchanapalli near Tadepalli in Guntur district on Saturday, Naidu was questioned about his role in the scam in the presence of two mediators.

He was given breaks as he requested and was allowed to consult his legal counsels and meet members of his family. He was questioned based on the note files which formed part of the evidence.

According to the agency, Naidu was non-cooperative and gave vague replies.

The CID said that APSSDC funds were diverted by the company DesignTech to various shell, inoperative companies based in Singapore and London, and an investigation was in progress.

Related: Opposition condemns Naidu’s ‘illegal’ arrest; YSRCP defends action

Offence attracts 10-years jail

The investigation agency said that the offence committed was punishable with more than 10 years of imprisonment.

It said that inquiries revealed that a system existed for generating bribes for Naidu from various work contracts issued by the state government between 2017 and 2019. The modus operandi for the generation of cash was through bogus invoices for procurement of works, goods, and services by subcontractors of the main contractors executing the work.

The cash was then handed over to persons and at the places as directed by Naidu by the representatives of the companies executing the works.

While a part of the ₹371 crore was spent for the creation of six centres of excellence clusters, which itself is a departure from GO No 4, the rest of the money was routed and re-routed through shell companies.

The investigation revealed that Chandrababu Naidu and the TDP were the end beneficiaries of the misappropriated money, the investigators have contended.

Overriding the then Finance Secretary K Sunitha, the government released ₹371 crore to DesignTech, which allegedly diverted ₹279 crore to several shell companies, and from there the money went back to Naidu and the TDP, the agency said.