Skill Development Scam Case: SC to Hear AP Govt’s Plea Against Naidu’s Bail on Feb 26

The Supreme Court on Monday fixed for February 26 the hearing of the Andhra Pradesh government’s plea against a high court order granting regular bail to TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu in the skill development corporation scam case.

A bench of Justices Bela M Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal adjourned the hearing after senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for Naidu, informed it that senior advocate Harish Salve will be arguing the matter but he is unavailable today.

He sought deferment of the hearing for two weeks to enable Salve to argue the matter.

Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar and advocate Mahfooz Ahsan Nazki, appearing for the Andhra Pradesh government, requested the bench to fix an early date for hearing the appeal against the high court order.

The bench said it can hear the matter on February 26 and listed it after two weeks.

On January 16, the top court had delivered a split verdict on Naidu’s plea challenging the high court order refusing to quash the FIR against him in the Skill Development Corporation scam case.

A bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi differed on the interpretation and applicability of section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act.

Section 17A was introduced by an amendment with effect from July 26, 2018. The provision stipulates a mandatory requirement for a police officer to seek prior approval from the competent authority for conducting any enquiry or inquiry or investigation into any offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant under the PC Act.

While Justice Bose said prior approval for conducting a probe for the alleged offences under the PC Act against Naidu was needed, Justice Trivedi held section 17A cannot be made applicable retrospectively.

Naidu was arrested on September 9 last year for allegedly misappropriating funds from the Skill Development Corporation when he was the chief minister in 2015, causing a purported loss of Rs 371 crore to the state exchequer. Naidu has denied the allegations.

On November 28, 2023, the top court had sought a response from Naidu on the Andhra Pradesh government’s plea challenging the grant of bail in the case by the high court.

he top court had also relaxed the bail conditions imposed on the 73-year-old leader and allowed him to participate in public rallies and meetings.

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It, however, said other bail conditions, including not making public statements or speaking to the media about the case, will remain in force.

On November 20, 2023, the Andhra Pradesh High Court converted Naidu’s four-week interim medical bail in the case into absolute bail and ordered the former chief minister’s release considering his age, old age-related ailments, his being a non-flight risk and other reasons.

Seeking setting aside of the high court verdict, the state government told the apex court in its appeal that Naidu is an “influential person” and two of his key associates, including a government servant, have already fled the country.

The TDP chief, who had undergone a cataract surgery at L V Prasad Hospital in Hyderabad, was released on interim medical bail on October 31, 2023.

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