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Verdict in AP skill scam case on September 21


Published on: September 19, 2023 | Updated on: September 19, 2023

The CID arrested Naidu only after getting all evidence. It took so much time to collect the evidence. When skill development centres were paid Rs 1 crore in Gujarat, they were paid Rs 250 crore in AP, Supreme Court senior advocates. (Image By Arrangement)

Vijayawada: The Andhra Pradesh High Court has concluded its hearings on a petition filed by TD chief Nara Chandrababu Naidu, seeking to quash the FIR registered against him by the AP-CID in the AP skill development scam.

The court court of single judge bench Srinivasa Reddy on Tuesday adjourned the case and reserved its verdict for delivery on Sept. 21.

It held the hearing, with Supreme Court senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Ranjith Kumar and additional advocate general Ponnavolu Sudhakar Reddy representing the AP government.

They argued that there was no need for the CID to get permission from the Governor to register an FIR on Naidu in the skill development scam as it involved intentional lootof public money for self-gain. This, they argued, was not related to abuse of public money while discharging one’s duty.

They argued that the scam took place not only with the knowledge of then chief minister Naidu but also in his presence. "We have all the relevant evidence to prove this," they said.

"The CID arrested Naidu only after getting all evidence. It took so much time to collect the evidence. When skill development centres were paid Rs 1 crore in Gujarat, they were paid Rs 250 crore in AP," they said.

Counsels submitted to the court that Naidu was trying to escape from the case by leveling an allegation that the CID’s was a politically motivated case. Section 17 (A) of the Prevention of Corruption Act was meant to protect the officials working honestly from political prosecution and it was not meant for Naidu who "resorted to loot of public money," they averred.

They argued that though Naidu was supposed to be a trustee of public money and should protect it, he diverted hundreds of crores illegally. "Naidu did it unofficially. Section 17 (A) was not applicable to him. An inquiry in the skill development scam was still going on," they said, and prayed the court not to issue any orders to stall the inquiry.

They informed the court that the Income Tax and Enforcement Directorate were also taking up a probe in the scam.

Earlier, Supreme Court senior advocates Siddartha Luthra and Harish Salve, representing Naidu, argued that as the FIR was registered in 2021, there was a need to take the governor’s permission under section 17 (A) of PC Act to take up the inquiry. This was as per a Supreme Court verdict issued earlier, they argued.

They said the scam took place in 2014. The arrest took place now. "The time of registration of FIR was important. With elections round the corner, the case filed against Naidu is politically motivated. The inquiry in the case was already over and all evidence was collected. Hence, the question of Naidu now tampering with the evidence and influencing witnesses does not arise. So, why the arrest," they asked.

The hearing in the case which began at 12.05pm continued until the evening, with the court hall packed to its capacity.

Naidu’s counsel Harish Salve argued in virtual mode from London via a video conference. He argued that registration of FIR against Naidu was illegal as permission from the Governor was not taken. This was required under section 17 (A) of PC Act, he said.

He argued that if a citizen is arrested by the investigation agencies and police unilaterally, the courts could intervene. He referred to the Arnab Goswami case.

The case booked against Naidu was based on information given by the GST officials. The skill development centres were set up and they were running successfully. Siemens and other companies supplied both hardware and software to such centres. So, where was the scam, he asked.

Salve submitted that the CID booked the "false" case based on the tax evasion noticed through invoices. "The issue of invoices was the internal issue of the companies. How could the CID interfere in such an issue," he asked.