The former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and chief of the TDP, Chandrababu Naidu, has been remanded to judicial custody by a Vijaywada Court for a period of 14 days till September 23. This decision is in relation to his alleged involvement in a skill development scam.
The order came after arguments transpired for over six hours. The former CM is now expected to be moved to the Rajahmundry Central Prison.
This comes a day after the leader of opposition in Andhra Pradesh legislative assembly was arrested by state Crime Investigation Department (CID) on September 9. The CID has said that Chandrababu Naidu has been identified as the central figure and designated as "accused no 1" in the ₹371 crore skill development scam. According to the agency, the government order was issued on Naidu's directives, with the apparent intention of causing financial harm to the public treasury and benefiting private individuals.
Naidu denies any wrongdoing in court
The proceedings, commencing at approximately 6 AM on Sunday, September 10, extended for over six hours. The prosecution advocated for a 15-day judicial custody for Naidu, whereas the legal representatives of the TDP leader contested this proposition.
The Crime Investigation Department (CID) presented Naidu before the court almost 24 hours after detaining him. The TDP chief personally addressed the judge, denouncing his arrest as unlawful and portraying it as an act of political vendetta perpetrated by the YSR Congress Party government.
N. Chandrababu Naidu, who appeared before a Vijayawada Anti-Corruption Bureau court following his arrest on Sunday morning, asserted in court that he has been wrongly implicated for political motives. He cited technicalities within the statutory provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and contended that there is no substantial accusation against him. Mr. Naidu urged the court to dismiss the remand report presented by the prosecuting agency.
Mr. Naidu's legal counsel argued that any inquiry or investigation related to offenses connected to recommendations or decisions made by a public servant in the course of their official duties must be conducted after receiving authorization from the competent authority with the power to remove him from office. This argument was grounded in Section 17-A of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
"The petitioner was the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh when the alleged offence alleged to have been committed and the person who removes the Chief Minister from Office is his majesty i.e., the Governor of Andhra Pradesh and hence the prosecution has to obtain prior sanction of the Governor even to initiate an enquiry/investigation in the above case. Hence, there is a statutory violation and hence the remand has to be rejected," Naidu's lawyer Siddarth Luthra argued.
The purported offenses are linked to a policy decision that was made and endorsed by the state cabinet, rendering it an action of the state government. Consequently, Luthra contended that initiating criminal proceedings to question this decision is not permissible.
What is Skill Development Scam?
Established in 2016 during the tenure of the TDP government in Andhra Pradesh, the APSSDC (Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation) aimed to empower unemployed youth through skill training.
An investigation initiated by the AP CID in March, with a reported scam amounting to ₹3,300 crore, revealed that the project was initiated without adhering to a proper tendering process, as reported by Hindustan Times.
Furthermore, the inquiry unearthed various irregularities within the program. These irregularities encompassed the absence of project approval from the Andhra Pradesh cabinet, the failure to utilize resources from Siemens Industry Software India (a consortium participant in the MoU signed during the TDP government's tenure), and the diversion of funds allocated for the project into shell companies.
Upon the project's launch, Siemens Industry Software India was entrusted with the task of developing six centers of excellence for skill development.