New Delhi: TDP supremo and former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu was being shifted to Rajahmundry Central Jail from Vijayawada by road on Sunday night after a city court sent him to 14 days judicial custody in the alleged skill development scam. Amid tight security, the convoy of police vehicles left Vijayawada Court Complex after 10 p.m. Police had made security arrangements to prevent any protest by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) along the 200-km route.
TDP workers had staged protests at several places on Saturday when the 73-year-old leader was being brought to Vijayawada from Nandyal, where he was arrested by the CID and police were taking all precautions to foil any such protests during the journey to Rajahmundry. As a precautionary measure, police have imposed section 144 of CrPC across the state.
The ACB court remanded Naidu to judicial custody in the evening, after lengthy arguments and day-long suspense. The court order came as a big setback to TDP, whose leaders were expecting a favourable judgment. Naidu’s counsel later pleaded that he be kept under house arrest in view of Z plus category security enjoyed by him but the court rejected the request.
It, however, directed the jail authorities to make special arrangements keeping in view his age and health condition. Immediately after the court order, the CID filed a petition seeking custody of Naidu for questioning in the case. The petition will come up for hearing on Monday. Naidu’s lawyers said they will file a bail petition in the High Court on Monday.
Earlier, the arguments, which began around 6 a.m., continued for nearly six hours. While the prosecution sought 15 day judicial custody of Naidu, the TDP leader’s counsel opposed the same.
The TDP chief himself had made submissions before the judge. He called his arrest illegal and an act of political vendetta by the YSR Congress Party government. Naidu alleged that there is no rule of law in the state as the government is violating the fundamental rights of the citizens.
He also submitted to the court that the funds for skill development projects were provided in the state budget for 2015-16 and argued that the budget passed by the Assembly can’t be called a criminal act.
Appearing for Naidu, senior Supreme Court lawyer Sidharth Luthra argued that the CID did not take permission from the Governor before arresting the Leader of the Opposition.
Additional Advocate General P. Sudhakar Reddy, who appeared for the CID, submitted that there is prima facie evidence against Naidu and that there is no need for prior permission from the Governor.
The court also did not agree with the argument of Naidu’s counsel that IPC’s Section 409 (Criminal breach of trust by public servant) does not apply in this case.
Luthra argued that Naidu was falsely implicated for political gains for the alleged offences under several IPC sections read with a section of thbe Prevention of Corruption Act.
The CID in its remand report informed the court that though Naidu was arrayed in the FIR as 37th accused, he is the chief architect and conspirator of the offence. It called it a case of criminal conspiracy with a common object and intent for criminal breach of trust and dishonest and or fraudulent misappropriation of public funds.
During the course of investigation, 141 witnesses have been examined so far and their statements were recorded. On verification of the documents and examining the witnesses, investigation disclosed that Naidu orchestrated the deep-rooted conspiracy by playing a key role at various stages in collusion with other accused, with a preconceived plan aimed at siphoning off of the funds released from the public exchequer towards the project, the CID said.
According to the CID, the Rs 371 crore scam took place between 2014 and 2018 when Naidu was Chief Minister.