Cash-for-vote case: Supreme Court to hear Revanth Reddy, Sandra Venkata Veeraiah pleas in January

Senior advocate Sidharth Luthra said that a Constitution bench judgement was awaited involving a similar question in Jharkhand.

ByParmod Kumar

Published Dec 04, 2023 | 6:52 PMUpdated Dec 04, 2023 | 6:52 PM

Cash-for-vote case: Supreme Court to hear Revanth Reddy, Sandra Venkata Veeraiah pleas in January

The Supreme Court on Monday, 4 December, posted for January 2024 a plea by the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) president A Revanth Reddy and then TDP MLA Sandra Venkata Veeraiah who have approached the top court challenging the Telangana High Court orders relating to the trial court proceedings involving them in an alleged cash-for-vote case relating 2015 MLC election in the state.

A bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice SVN Bhatti posted the matter for January on a request from the two petitioners.

Senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, appearing for Revanth Reddy and Venkata Veeraiah, said that a Constitution Bench judgement was awaited involving a similar question in respect of a Rajya Sabha election in Jharkhand.

Revanth Reddy is the frontrunner to be the new chief minister of Telangana, after the Congress party and its ally, the CPI, won 65 seats in the 30 November Assembly election, ending the 10-year rule of the BRS and chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao.

AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge was authorised by the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) to choose the leader.

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The Jharkhand case

In the Jharkhand case, the judgement is awaited on the allegation against the petitioner Sita Soren that she had allegedly accepted a bribe to vote in favour of a particular candidate in the Rajya Sabha election that was held in 2012 in the state.

The judgement in the case was reserved by the apex court on 5 October.

The question to be addressed by the judgement is whether an MP or MLA can claim immunity from prosecution for accepting money for making a speech or exercising a vote in a particular manner in the House.

It is revising its 1998 Constitution Bench judgement in the case of the late prime minister PV Narasimha Rao.

Sidharth Luthra pointed to the awaited judgement of the Constitution Bench, urging the bench to list the matter on a non-miscellaneous day as it would involve detailed arguments both on the question of law and on other aspects.

However, the bench said that it may not require a prolonged hearing.

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The pleas

Sandra Venkata Veeraiah — who has been named a conspirator in the case — has challenged the rejection of his plea seeking discharge in the case both by the Special Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Court and the high court.

On 8 December, 2020, the Telangana High Court declined Sandra Venkata Veeraiah’s plea seeking discharge in the case.

On 25 August, 2021, the top court stayed further proceedings before the trial court in the case of Sandra Venkata Veeraiah before the Principal Special Judge for Trial of SPE & ACB cases, Hyderabad.

Revanth Reddy challenged the invoking of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act, 1988, against him. He challenged his trial by the Special ACB Court as he has been accused of invoking the provisions of the PC Act, 1988.

Revanth Reddy contended that his case was not triable by the Special ACB Court as the offence alleged against him does not fall under the PC Act but, was an alleged electoral offence which, if at all it is required, is triable by courts dealing with the offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

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Background of the case

On 31 May, 2015, ACB sleuths had allegedly caught Revanth Reddy, then a TDP MLA, red-handed while he was offering ₹50 lakh as a bribe to Elvis Stephenson, a nominated MLA of the TRS (now BRS).

Sandra Venkata Veeraiah, named a conspirator, was then a TDP MLA. He later joined the BRS after the 2018 Assermbly election, and lost in his Sathupalle constituency in the recent 30 November election.

In pursuance of that, the ACB registered cases against Revanth Reddy and others.

Revanth Reddy, allehgedly at the behest of TDP president and then Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, had tried to bribe the nominated MLA to vote in favour of TDP candidate Vem Narender Reddy in the Telangana Legislative Council elections.

Revanth Reddy, who was the deputy floor leader of the party in the Telangana Assembly, had allegedly called on Stephenson, the nominated MLA, and offered him ₹5 crore to vote for Narendar Reddy. He also promised him a flight ticket to leave the country after the voting.

Ater Stephenson lodged a complaint with the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) of Telangana, it laid a trap and arrested Revanth Reddy while paying Stephenson ₹50 lakh as advance to him on 31 May, 2015.

The ACB officials also arrested two others, charging them as Revanth Reddy’s accomplices — R Udaya Simha and Sebastian Harry.

The ACB also released an audio clip containing a conversation that allegedly took place between the nominated MLA and Naidu in which the former chief minister purportedly said that he would extend his full support to Stephenson if he voted for the TDP candidate.

Later, forensic experts confirmed that the voice on the tape did belong to Naidu, but the ACB did not list him as an accused in the case as they did not have evidence to support the claim that the money was sent by Naidu.

The ACB filed a charge-sheet against Revanth Reddy and others under the PC Act and section 120 B of the IPC alleging criminal conspiracy. The high court granted bail to Revanth Reddy on 3 August, 2015.