Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Skill development scam case: Andhra Pradesh High Court refuses to quash case against former CM Chandrababau Naidu

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The High Court of Andhra Pradesh on Friday dismissed a petition filed by former Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party leader N. Chandrababu Naidu, seeking quashing of a case registered  against him in connection with the multi-crore skill development scam case.

The single-judge Bench of Justice K. Sreenivas Reddy observed that no sanction was required to prosecute Naidu as the use of public funds under the ‘colour of authority,’ but really for his own benefit could not be considered as an act done in discharge of his official functions.

The TDP leader had claimed that sanction to prosecute him was not obtained by the prosecution under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption. He further submitted that no case was made out against him since the project in question was up and running and it could not be said that public money was misappropriated.

The High Court noted that the decisions taken by the petitioner or the recommendations made by him to grant sanction for the payment of money on the basis of documents and committing misappropriation of amount could not be considered as acts done by him in discharge of his official duties or functions. 

The counsel appearing for the State requested the High Court not to scuttle the investigation in only 10 days since its registration. 

The Bench then observed that an accused had no right to demand a preliminary enquiry and the question whether such enquiry was required or not, will depend on facts and circumstances of each case. 

In instances representing ‘serious’ economic offences, the approach has to be different, more particularly when the investigation was at a nascent stage, noted the High Court.

It said that preliminary enquiry cannot be said to be an added requirement before registration of an FIR even in corruption cases and that if the information received disclosed commission of a cognisable offence, a police officer could directly register a case without conducting a preliminary enquiry.

As per the case, Naidu had conspired with other accused to misappropriate funds from the public exchequer. 

The Bench observed that a project, which could have been executed at a cost of only Rs 110-130 crore, a false façade was created of it being worth Rs 3,300 crore. A work order of Rs 371 crore was given on nomination basis. Of this, at least Rs 241 crore was misappropriated, it added.

It noted that in the face of such disputed facts, a mini-trial cannot be conducted and dismissed the petition. 

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