3 May 2023 7:39 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Wednesday set aside the Andhra Pradesh High Court order which stayed probe into the Amravati Land Scam, in a plea moved by the Andhra Pradesh government. “In our view, the High Court ought not to have granted interim stay when it was not required as the entire matter was at a premature stage…..For the reasons stated above, we are inclined to set aside the orders...
The Supreme Court on Wednesday set aside the Andhra Pradesh High Court order which stayed probe into the Amravati Land Scam, in a plea moved by the Andhra Pradesh government.
“In our view, the High Court ought not to have granted interim stay when it was not required as the entire matter was at a premature stage…..For the reasons stated above, we are inclined to set aside the orders dated.... while making it clear that we have not expressed anything on the merits of the case. The High Court is expected to decide the writ petition on merits in accordance with the law without being influenced by any of the observations made in our order. Petitions are allowed accordingly”, a Bench of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar ordered.
The Andhra Pradesh government had challenged a High Court order passed in 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. The Court reserved its judgement in November, 2022.
In its order, the Bench agreed with the Senior Counsel appearing for the State who submitted that the High Court had misinterpreted 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. The Sub-committee under the SIT was constituted to enquire into the allegations of corruption and misfeasance of the previous government.”
The Top Court further noted that the High Court had not considered several submissions based on the precedents set by the Supreme Court.
“There may be certain other aspects which are required to be considered by the High Court in the present Writ petition, more particularly, because of the reference of the committee. The High Court has also not considered various contentions raised before us, based on the decisions of this Court on legal aspects. The fact that first petitioner had made a request to the Central government to refer the matter to the CBI has not been taken into consideration”.
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.
Senior Advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing on behalf of the petitioner had earlier questioned the impugned stay order. "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, had 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."
Case Title: State of Andhra Pradesh v. Varla Ramaiah [SLP(C) No. 11912-13/2020]
Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 390
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