Skill development scam case: Andhra Pradesh moves Supreme Court against regular bail to TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu

The government of Andhra Pradesh has filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the Andhra Pradesh High Court order granting regular bail to Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief and former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu in the Skill Development Programme scam case.

The state government contended in the plea that the High Court had delved deep into facts of the case and rendered findings which were not only factually incorrect, but were also likely to prejudice the trial against Naidu.

It added that the practice of detailed elaboration of evidence in bail orders has been repeatedly deprecated by this Court.

As per the Andhra Pradesh government, while professing not to conduct a ‘mini-trial,’ the High Court ended up conducting a ‘trial of allegations,’ the veracity of the contentions, the reliability of the documents placed by the Prosecution Agency and the evidence-worthiness of the same while seeking to rule on the plausibility of allegations at the stage of grant of bail.

On November 20, the single-judge Bench of Justice T Mallikarjun Rao had granted bail to Naidu on the grounds that there was no prima facie evidence to prove that the misappropriated amount in the scam case worth Rs 371 crore was diverted to the bank accounts of TDP.

The High Court noted that the petitioner was arrested on September 9, 2023 and had remained in judicial custody till being granted interim bail on health grounds on October 31, 2023, following the court’s orders.

Earlier on October 31, the High Court had granted interim bail to Naidu for four weeks on medical grounds in the Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation (APSSDC) scam case.

The single-judge Bench of Justice T. Mallikarjuna Rao granted interim bail to the TDP chief till November 28 for his treatment including cataract surgery.

The High Court directed Naidu to submit a surety of Rs one lakh and not to influence anyone related to the case. He was further told to surrender on November 29.

The single-judge Bench further listed the regular bail petition of the 73-year-old TDP leader for hearing on November 10.

Naidu was arrested by the State Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on September 9 in connection with the Rs 300 crore APSSDC scam case. It was alleged that Naidu, in connivance with others, caused a loss of Rs 300 crore to the state exchequer in the name of setting up a skill development centre.

He is currently lodged in the Rajamahendravaram (Rajahmundry) central prison.

On October 30, the State CID registered another case under the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act against Naidu in connection with illegal permissions given to liquor companies in the state when he was the Chief Minister. He has been named as accused number three in the case. 

The State CID apprised the Vijayawada ACB Court about this latest case on October 30. This is the fourth case registered against Naidu since he was arrested by CID on September 9.

Earlier on October 9, the High Court had refused to grant bail to the former chief minister in connection with three different cases registered against him regarding corruption and riots.

The single-judge Bench of Justice K. Suresh Reddy dismissed the regular bail petitions filed by Naidu in connection with the Angallu violence case and the Inner Ring Road alignment change case, along with the anticipatory bail plea in the AP Fibernet Grid case.

It was alleged that the master plan of Amaravati capital city, alignment of the inner ring road and the seed capital were manipulated during Naidu’s regime, in order to provide undue enrichment to several companies.

On September 11, the State CID had filed a Prisoner Transit (PT) warrant petition against Naidu in the Amaravati Inner Ring Road. It filed another PT warrant petition against Chandrababu Naidu in the FiberNet scam.

The investigating agency had accused Naidu of exerting pressure on officials to favour a certain company that was awarded the FiberNet contract, despite its alleged lack of necessary qualifications. As per the State CID, the work order for the first phase of AP FiberNet Project worth Rs 321 crore was allotted to Tera Software in violation of rules and by manipulating the tender process. 

The project was aimed at providing optical fibre connectivity to villages and towns across the state.

The High Court had earlier granted anticipatory bail to Naidu on October 13 in connection with the Angallu violence case. As per the case, incidents of stone pelting, arson and rioting took place during a political rally taken out by the TDP chief at Angallu village in Annamayya district on August 4.

The single-judge Bench of Justice K. Suresh Reddy had reserved its verdict on October 12 after hearing arguments from both sides in the Angallu violence case. Mudivedu police had registered a case against Naidu following the incident. 

The State CID had opposed Naidu’s bail plea on the grounds that his remarks were responsible for the violence in Angallu village.

Despite getting anticipatory bail in the Angallu violence case, Naidu continued to remain in judicial custody in connection with other cases.

A team of specialist doctors visited the Rajamahendravaram central prison on October 12 to examine Naidu’s health after he complained of skin allergy.