Justice SVN Bhatti Recuses From Hearing Chandrababu Naidu's Plea In Supreme Court To Quash FIR
Supreme Court judge Justice SVN Bhatti on Wednesday (September 27) recused himself from hearing a petition filed by former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu seeking to quash the criminal proceedings against him in connection with a multi-crore skill development scam in the state.The matter was listed before a bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti (who...
Supreme Court judge Justice SVN Bhatti on Wednesday (September 27) recused himself from hearing a petition filed by former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu seeking to quash the criminal proceedings against him in connection with a multi-crore skill development scam in the state.
The matter was listed before a bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti (who hails from Andhra Pradesh). As soon as the matter was taken, Justice Khanna told Naidu's lawyer, Senior Advocate Harish Salve, "My brother has some reservations about hearing the matter."
"We can say nothing about that. Please list it as early as possible", Salve replied. Accordingly, Justice Khanna directed the matter to be placed before a bench not comprising Justice Bhatti, pronouncing -
"Subject to the orders of the Hon'ble the Chief Justice, the present special leave petition be placed before a bench of which one of us, my brother, is not a member."
Naidu's lawyer Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra soon mentioned the matter before Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud for urgent listing. CJI agreed to list the matter on October 3, but declined the request to restrain the trial judge from dealing with the State's police custody application.
Naidu has filed a special leave petition challenging an order passed by the Andhra Pradesh High Court last week declining to quash a first information report (FIR) arraigning the ex-chief minister as one of the accused in the skill development scam. Naidu was arrested in connection with this case on September 9 by the state’s crime investigation department and has been in custody since.
Nara Chandrababu Naidu, Telugu Desam Party president and erstwhile Andhra Pradesh chief minister, has been arrested in connection with a skill development scam in the state, with the state crime investigation department claiming to have prime facie evidence of the former chief minister’s key role in the alleged embezzlement of around Rs 371 crore from the Andhra Pradesh Skill Development Corporation through fictitious companies during the TDP's rule between 2014 and 2019. He is the 37th accused in a 2021 FIR related to the multi-crore scam involving the state skill development corporation.
The opposition Telugu Desam Party leader was arrested by the Andhra Pradesh CID on September 9 and has remained in custody since. Subsequently, a Vijayawada court remanded Naidu to police custody for September 23 and 24. On Sunday, Naidu’s judicial remand was extended till October 5.
Last week, the Andhra Pradesh High Court dismissed Naidu’s plea for quashing of the FIR. In his petition, he argued that the trial court’s order remanding him to custody did not consider that the CID had failed to obtain prior approval from the governor, as required by Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act. However, a bench of Justice K Sreenivas Reddy ruled that prior sanction from the competent authority was unnecessary for the investigation since the use of public funds, allegedly for personal gain, did not constitute an act in the discharge of official duties. The court also agreed that given the seriousness of economic offences, the investigation should not be hindered, especially at this early stage.
Challenging this ruling, the TDP leader has approached the Supreme Court in a special leave petition.
Nara Chandrababu Naidu v. State of Andhra Pradesh & Anr. | Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No. 12289 of 2023