The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Monday granted regular bail to former Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief Chandrababu Naidu in the Skill Development case.
The single-judge Bench of Justice T Mallikarjun Rao 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.
The single-judge Bench further noted the lack of supportive material in the investigation, observing that such serious allegations should be backed by substantial material before seeking the remand of the petitioner.
On October 17, the Apex Court refused to grant interim bail to Naidu and reserved its verdict on his petition to quash the case registered against him in the Skill Development scam case under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
On October 13, the Supreme Court had issued notice on a petition filed by Naidu seeking anticipatory bail in the FiberNet scam case and directed the Andhra Pradesh police not to arrest former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister till the next date of hearing in the case.
The Bench of Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Bela M Trivedi passed the orders on a special leave petition filed by Naidu, challenging the Andhra Pradesh High Court order, which refused to grant him anticipatory bail earlier this week.
Appearing for the TDP chief, Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra alleged that after the initial arrest of Naidu in the skill development scam case, the respondents were going after him in one case after the other, adding that it looked like he was on a merry-go-round.
Pointing out that a warrant had been issued to produce Naidu for October 16 in connection with the FiberNet scam case, Luthra voiced his concern regarding an imminent arrest and sought a stay on production warrants.
The Apex Court recorded in its order that the standing counsel for the State of Andhra Pradesh has accepted the service on behalf of the respondent state. It said if the State wanted to file a counter-affidavit, it may do so by October 16 with a copy to the petitioners.
The top court of the country then listed the matter for further hearing on October 17.
The former Chief Minister has been accused of playing a ‘key role’ in the Andhra Pradesh FiberNet scam, which took place during the TDP term in the state.
The state crime investigation department (CID) has 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.
It was alleged that Naidu manipulated the tender in allotting a work order under Phase-1 of the AP FiberNet Project of Rs 330 crore to a favoured company.
As per the Crime Investigation Department of Andhra Pradesh, irregularities took place from the allotting of tender to completion of the total project, causing a huge loss to the state exchequer.
Earlier in the day, the Andhra Pradesh High Court granted anticipatory bail to Naidu in the case related to violence that took place at Angallu village in Annamaya district of the state on August 4.
The single-judge Bench of Justice K. Suresh Reddy had on Thursday reserved its verdict after hearing arguments from both sides in the case.
The incidents of stone pelting, arson and riots had taken place during a political rally taken out by the TDP chief at Angallu on August 4.
On Thursday, a team of specialist doctors visited Rajamahendravaram central prison to examine Naidu’s health after he complained of skin allergy.
Earlier on October 9, the Andhra Pradesh 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.
Naidu is currently under judicial remand in the Rajamahendravaram central prison in the Skill development Corporation scam case, which resulted in an alleged loss of over Rs 300 crore to the state exchequer.