SC Sets Aside HC Stay on SIT Probe in Amaravati Land Case

In a shot in the arm for the Jagan Mohan Reddy government, the Supreme Court on Wednesday set aside an Andhra Pradesh High Court order which had stayed an SIT probe into alleged irregularities in the land deals in Amaravati during the previous TDP regime.

Through a government order of September 26, 2019, the Reddy government had appointed a Cabinet Sub Committee to examine the allegations of corruption against members of the erstwhile government which recorded a prima facie finding about certain allegations.

On the basis of the report, the state government issued a second order and constituted the 10-member SIT, headed by a Deputy Inspector General of Police-rank IPS officer, to conduct a comprehensive investigation into various alleged irregularities, particularly the land deals in the Amaravati Capital Region, during the previous Chandrababu Naidu regime.

Both the notifications were stayed by the high court indefinitely which led the state to approach the top court for relief.

An apex court bench of justices MR Shah and MM Sundresh said the high court ought not to have granted an interim stay when it was not required as the entire matter was at a premature nascent stage.

The apex court said the high court has failed to consider the fact that the state government had already made a representation to the Centre to refer the investigation to the CBI.

“We are prima facie of the opinion that some of the reasoning given by the high court while staying the further proceedings pursuant to the two government orders may not be germane, more particularly, when the high court has observed that the new government cannot be permitted to overturn the decisions of the previous government.

The Andhra Pradesh government had challenged a high court order of September 2020 staying the government orders sanctioning the constitution of a Special Investigating Team (SIT) to probe into the allegations of land scam in Amaravati during the previous dispensation under the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).

The apex court said central government is yet to take a call on the letter and the consent given by the Andhra Pradesh government and it would have been better, had the high court permitted the parties to complete the pleadings, and thereafter, decided the writ petitions one way or the other by affording ample opportunity to the parties before it.

“We are inclined to set aside the orders dated September 16, 2020, while making it clear that we have not expressed anything on the merits of the case. The high court is expected to decide and dispose of the writ petitions on merits and in accordance with law, without being influenced by any of the observations made in our order.

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“Considering the issues governing the facts and law, the high court may make an endeavour to dispose of the writ petitions finally within a period of three months from the date of receipt of the copy of this judgment,” the bench said.

The top court said senior advocate appearing on behalf of the state is justified in submitting that the high court has misinterpreted and misconstrued the two government orders.

“If the aforesaid two GOs are considered, it can be seen that the same cannot be said to be overturning the earlier decisions taken by the previous government and/or to review the decisions taken by the previous government.

“The Sub-Committee and the SIT have been constituted to inquire into the allegations of acts of corruption and misfeasance of the previous government,” the bench said.

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