Table of Contents
The ongoing drama of N. Chandrababu Naidu’s remand, the former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh and the national leader of the Telugu Desham Party (TDP), has taken a new turn. The question of whether a trial court judgment remanding former chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu will continue to be lawful if the corruption charges against him are dropped due to a lack of a sanction under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act was raised by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The state argued before the Supreme Court on Tuesday that the accusations of theft against Naidu in the skill development fraud case were “clear-cut” and had nothing to do with his official duties. The court had stated on Monday that Section 17A could not be used to undermine the anti-corruption law’s core purpose.
Arguments of both sides in Supreme Court
Senior attorney Mukul Rohatgi and attorney Mahfooz A. Nazki, speaking on behalf of the state before a bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M. Trived in the Supreme Court, asserted that Mr. Naidu is ineligible for protection under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act, which requires prior approval for investigations.
According to the state, the former Chief Minister engaged in the scheme with intention and planned a loss to the exchequer. Rohatgi argued that falsifying records and embezzling money are not considered official duties under Section 17A.
The state further maintained that the case’s investigation and cause of action predated the July 2018 implementation of Section 17A. According to Rohatgi, the immunity granted by the clause cannot be used in the past.
Naidu’s senior attorney, Harish Salve, in the Supreme Court had argued that Section 17A was a safeguard designed for public employees against regime retaliation. Before unexpectedly launching legal action against Naidu by filing a FIR in the skill development scam case 21 months ago, Salve and senior attorney Siddharth Luthra contended that no sanction had been granted under Section 17A.
The attorney had claimed that the TDP leader’s fundamental rights had been violated. His detention was unlawful. Salve cited a recent ruling by the Supreme Court in which it was stated that if an arrest was done unlawfully, the remand order might be revoked.
In his appeal, Naidu claimed that the state’s main opposition was the target of a planned campaign of regime vengeance.
Salve had contended that the case involved choices about public policy that were authorized by the state cabinet and could not be the focus of criminal investigations. It was argued that the budget for 2015–16 already included the project’s allocation of 371 crore.
Background of Naidu’s arrest
On September 10, Chandrababu Naidu was arrested in connection with the suspected Skill Development Corporation scam during a pre-dawn police raid in Gnanapuram, Nandyala. The CID apprehended him about 6 a.m. outside a wedding hall where his trailer was parked. After his arrest, the judge ordered Naidu to be held in judicial custody for 14 days and proposed that he be taken to Rajahmundry Central Jail.
The incident reportedly cost the state exchequer 371 crore rupees. The TDP leader has been identified as the ‘principal conspirator’ in the case. The FIR filed by the AP CID in 2021 regarding the multi-million-dollar scam involving the Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation lists Naidu as the 37th accused person.
Naidu challenged the arrest in the High Court. In a ruling dated September 22, the High Court declined to strike the charges brought against Mr. Naidu. Additionally, it had refused to overturn the court’s remand order issued by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
The lawsuit involves alleged misappropriations that Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation, in partnership with Siemens Industry Software India Private Limited, Design Tech Systems Private Limited, and other businesses, committed during the formation of skill development institutions.