18 Nov 2022 4:38 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved judgement on an appeal preferred by the Andhra Pradesh government challenging a High Court order 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.The Bench comprised Justices M.R. Shah and...
The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved judgement on an appeal preferred by the Andhra Pradesh government challenging a High Court order 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.
The Bench comprised Justices M.R. Shah and M.M. Sundresh. In the course of the hearing, Justice Shah orally observed, "If subsequent governments are not permitted to reopen the decisions taken and is only allowed to put a seal of approval, previous governments will be immune against all consequences. No one will be in a position to do anything then. Even if it is an administrative action with some mala fide or oblique reason, it can be enquired into."
Charges of amassing huge wealth by illegal means, under the garb of developing Amaravati, the proposed capital of the state, have been levelled against TDP supremo, N. Chandrababu Naidu and his cohorts, by the incumbent government led by Y.S.R. Jagan Mohan Reddy. Under Reddy's premiership, a cabinet sub-committee was formed, in pursuance of a government order, to scrutinise various policy decisions and programmes by the previous government during their tenure, especially with respect to projects such as the Capital Region, Polavaram. On the basis of the report of this sub-committee in which preliminary findings of corruption and fraudulent land transactions at Amravati were recorded, a second government order was issued, and an SIT was constituted to conduct an investigation into the allegations. These two government orders came under the scanner of the High Court, which held them in abeyance on the basis of a prima facie finding that they were politically motivated. The High Court had also said that the current government did not have the power to carte blanche review all policies propounded by their predecessors.
In the petition challenging this decision of the High Court, the Andhra Pradesh government has, however, contended that, "A successor government may investigate allegations and charges against erstwhile government and the existence of political rivalry does not vitiate any enquiries conducted by the successor government." According to the plea, the High Court could not have reviewed the impugned government orders since they were not unreasonable or arbitrary, and but a part of a mere policy decision regarding the exercise of executive power. Furthermore, it was contended, there was no bar against the complainant and investigating officer being the same person and there was no default assumption of bias in those circumstances. Senior Advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing on behalf of the petitioner, questioned the impugned stay order in the last hearing. "The order is highly premature. What you are saying is, do not inquire, nothing. How can this be stayed in a blanket manner like this?" Singhvi had asked.
The counsel for the respondents, Senior Advocate Siddharth Dave, vehemently opposed the submissions made by Singhvi. Dave argued, "Normally and ordinarily, if there is a change in the regime, it should not lead to a situation where there is large-scale prosecution of people on political motives. On the basis of the findings of the fact-finding body, which consisted of people only from the ruling dispensation, and had very broad terms of reference, criminal prosecution was also initiated. The evidence of bias is writ large by the constitution of this body. What if this were to happen in every state where a change of regime is to take place? This is nothing but a witch-hunt."
State of Andhra Pradesh v. Varla Ramaiah [SLP(C) No. 11912-13/2020]
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