As CBI starts probe, a look at what the Andhra Pradesh court evidence theft case is all about

CBI takes over the theft of case property from an Andhra Pradesh court related to a forgery case with a state minister as the prime accused.

ByMuhammed Fazil

Published Dec 14, 2022 | 4:12 PMUpdatedDec 14, 2022 | 4:51 PM

Andhra Pradesh Court theft case.

The theft of case property (material evidence) from a local court in Nellore is in the news again as the CBI began its probe into the case. The stolen evidence is related to a forgery case in which Andhra Pradesh Agriculture Minister Kakani Govardhan Reddy is the prime accused.

The CBI has taken over the case from the Chinna Bazar police station in Nellore. Two people, Syed Hayath and Shaik Kahaja Rasool are named as accused in the FIR.

What the accused did

The case was registered after the accused reportedly broke into an additional sessions court in Nellore on the intervening night of 13-14 April, 2022, and stole a bag containing a laptop, mobile phones and several documents related to a criminal case of 2017 against Govardhan Reddy and three others.

The stolen bag was found dumped in a culvert near the court with many crucial pieces of evidence missing. Incidentally, the theft occurred just five days after Govardhan Reddy had been sworn in as minister.

The preliminary enquiry was conducted by the principal district judge, who reported to the Andhra Pradesh High Court that the four police personnel who were guarding the court failed in their duty.

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“The police concerned did not collect footprints and fingerprints on the main door which was broken open by the miscreants and they did not even call the dog squad to the scene of the crime,” reads the high court report.

The accused were arrested on 17 April by the police. One laptop, one tab, four mobile phones, and seven SIM cards were confiscated from the accused.

During the time of the arrest, a police officer said that the accused were habitual offenders and they were trying to steal metal scrap from a nearby godown. The theft in court was said to be done after an unsuccessful attempt in the godown.

According to the police, the accused took all the electronic items away from the evidence bag and threw away the documents.

Background of the case

Kakani Govardhan Reddy, in 2017, alleged that the then agricultural minister Somireddy Chandra Mohan Reddy had accumulated property worth thousands of crores rupees abroad. To support his allegation, he also released some documents as evidence.

Somireddy, who denied the allegations, filed a complaint stating that the former had forged the documents. A charge sheet was filed in the case with these documents as evidence.

When the documents were stolen from the court, Somireddy accused Govardhan Reddy of stealing them, “as he (Govardhan Reddy) knew punishment is imminent. It is perhaps the first time that evidence has been stolen from a court”.

CBI takes over probe

The Andhra Pradesh High Court took up the case based on a report filed by the principal district judge of Nellore.

The report mentioned the failure of the police in investigating the crime properly and said the truth might come to light only if the investigation was handed over to an independent agency.

Principal District Judge C Yamini sent four reports to the high court regarding the investigation. In the first three, she mentioned the loopholes in the police investigation.

In the fourth report, however, she mentioned that the entire issue occurred due to a clerical error, and the evidence related to the Govardhan Reddy case is with the police.

The high court bench consisting of Chief Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra and Justice M. Satyanarayana Murthy, after studying the reports, asked the state government regarding a CBI probe.

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The bench said, “When such importance is accorded to criminal cases against MLAs and MPs, the court concerned at Nellore as well as the state machinery including the law enforcing agency should have taken due care and caution to secure the case property; otherwise, in the absence of case property being produced and proved in the court, the trial against MLAs and MPs may fail for lack of evidence. It is, for this reason, the matter assumes importance.”

The high court transferred the probe to the CBI on 24 November after receiving no objection from the government, directing the central agency to conduct a “proper investigation and submit the charge sheet at the earliest”.