SC reserves order on Chandrababu Naidu’s plea for quashing of FIR in skill development scam

Claiming that the FIR was registered without prior sanction from the state government, Naidu challenged it under Section 17A of the PC Act.

ByParmod Kumar

Published Oct 17, 2023 | 7:26 PMUpdatedOct 17, 2023 | 7:26 PM

Chandrababu Naidu being taken for a medical exam before being taken to an ACB court. (Supplied)

Without granting an interim bail to TDP supremo and former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu in the Fibrenet case, the Supreme Court on Tuesday, 17 October, reserved its order on his plea seeking to quash the FIR against him in the ₹371 crore AP State Skill Development Corporation (APSSDC) scam.

Claiming that the FIR was registered without prior sanction from the state Governor, Naidu challenged it under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act.

Naidu’s plea for interim bail will be taken up on 20 October.

Related: Naidu was in ‘command role’ when APSSDC scam took place: AP govt

Court reserves order

Asking both the parties — Andhra Pradesh government and Naidu — to file their written submissions by 20 October, a Bench comprising Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Bela M Trivedi reserved the order upon the conclusion of the arguments.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Naidu, insisted that the former chief minister could not have been proceeded against without prior sanction under Section 17A of the PC Act.

As senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, also appearing for Naidu, told the Bench about their plea for interim bail, Justice Bose said, “We have heard the main matter and we’ll deliver the judgement.”

Salve too told the Bench that Naidu is a 73-year-old man who has been in jail for 40 days.

“I have a request for interim bail. If you rule against me on the applicability of Section 17A, he (Naidu) can go back (to jail),” he said.

The judgement is unlikely to be pronounced before 30 October as the bench has given time to both parties to file their written submissions by 20 October, which is followed by the week-long Dussehra vacation.

The apex court will be open for judicial work only on 30 October.

Also Read: Why the Nara women may now have to pick up TDP mantle

‘Dates prior to amendment of PC Act’

Andhra Pradesh government reiterated its position that the alleged offence dates prior to the 2018 amendment to the PC Act inserting Section 17A mandating prior sanction from the competent authority to investigate a public servant for the alleged offences committed in the discharge of official duties.

Arguing the retrospective application of Section 17A, which became a part of the PCA in 2018, Salve told the bench, “Let me assume I’m wrong: In any case, you got all these orders based on Section 17A which will have to go. And, if the remand order goes, the man has to be set at liberty.”

Responding to the Andhra Pradesh government’s argument that the discharge of official duty did not mean alleged acts of corruption, Salve said that the Legislature had been very careful in drafting this section.

“Official duty is now in a context. If you say acting corruptly is not a part of official duty, you are injecting the Section 197 CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) principle here,” he said.

Related: With Naidu’s arrest, battle for 2024 has begun; but who will benefit?

‘Section 17A not applicable’

Concluding his arguments, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi told the bench that Section 17A was not applicable in the instant case because it was not retrospective.

‘It was not in existence at the time when the offence occurred in 2015-16. Assuming Section 17A is applicable, we had already commenced inquiry in June 2018,” he said.

Appearing for the Andhra Pradesh government, Rohatgi said that Section 17A applied to only a decision, or recommendation in discharge of public office.

“Facts given prima facie in this case show that actions in the instant case cannot remotely be a part of public duty,” he added.

The Andhra Pradesh Crime Investigation Department (CID) arrested Naidu on 9 September over the alleged APSSDC scam and he is currently lodged in the Rajamahendravaram Central Jail.