FiberNet case: Supreme Court posts Chandrababu Naidu anticipatory bail plea for 12 Dec; protection from arrest continues

The bench will decide whether the TDP supremo is protected under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988.

ByParmod Kumar

Published Nov 30, 2023 | 4:46 PMUpdatedNov 30, 2023 | 4:47 PM

The interim protection from coercive action would continue till the issue of whether Naidu is shielded under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act is resolved.

The Supreme Court on Thursday, 30 November, posted for 12 December a plea by former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu seeking anticipatory bail in the FiberNet case.

The interim protection from coercive action is expected to continue till the issue of whether Naidu is shielded under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act is resolved.

The Act mandates the Governor’s prior approval to prosecute public servants by invoking the anti-corruption law.

On 13 October, the Andhra Pradesh government had assured the top court that it would not arrest the former chief minister in the FiberNet case till 18 October. The undertaking was reiterated on 17 October and 20 October.

Stating that “the judgment is in the process”, Justice Aniruddha Bose, heading a bench also comprising Justice Bela M Trivedi, posted the matter for hearing on 12 December and ordered the continued interim protection from the coercive action by the state police.

The bench on 17 October reserved its judgment on Naidu’s plea seeking the quashing of the FIR in the Andhra Pradesh Skill Development scam case because it was initiated against him without prior sanction of the Governor as mandated under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988.

Related: Supreme Court tells AP to defer Naidu arrest in the Fibrenet case 

Section 17A incorporated in July 2018

The bench has to decide whether the TDP supremo is protected under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act for the alleged mala fide actions attributed to him when he was the chief minister from 2014 to 2019.

Section 17A was incorporated into the Prevention of Corruption Act by an amendment and it came into force on 26 July, 2018.

While Naidu contended that the case of alleged corruption in the Skill Development case was initiated after the incorporation of Section 17A, the Andhra Pradesh government asserted that the section would not be applicable in cases that were filed before it came into force.

Naidu also contended that the enforcement of Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act would be retrospective and the case registered against him was covered under the section.

The former chief minister approached the top court contending that no criminal prosecution could be initiated against — him on the issues arising from the decisions he had taken while discharging his official duties as the chief minister — without the prior sanction of the Governor.

The FiberNet case relates to alleged tender manipulation for allotting a work order under Phase-I of the AP FiberNet Project, involving ₹330 crore to a favoured company.

The Andhra Pradesh Crime Investigation Department arrested Naidu on 9 September for allegedly misappropriating finds from the Skill Development Corporation.