Narasimhan returns file pertaining to Cabinet’s decision against permitting CBI to prosecute Dharmana

In a deep embarrassment for the Kiran Kumar Reddy government, Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan has rejected the Cabinet’s recommendation not to sanction permission to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to prosecute Minister Dharmana Prasada Rao.

A few days back, Mr. Narasimhan returned the relevant file to the Chief Minister with the advice that the Cabinet seek further legal opinion on the CBI’s plea to prosecute Mr. Prasada Rao in the case relating to allotment of land to Vodarevu and Nizampatnam Ports and Industrial Corridor (Vanpic) project. The Cabinet at its meeting on November 23 had passed a resolution turning down the CBI’s request.

In a double whammy for the Roads and Buildings Minister, the CBI filed a 90-page memo in the special court for CBI cases seeking permission to prosecute him without reference to its plea to the government. On Thursday, the court issued a notice to the Minister to show cause why he should not be prosecuted under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The gubernatorial intervention was reportedly based on expert legal advice not to accept the Cabinet’s resolution as it may not stand the test of judicial scrutiny. At least four landmark cases were cited by the lawyers in support of their contention, the most important one being the Supreme Court’s verdict in the case relating to Abhaya Singh Chautala and Ajay Singh Chautala vs. the CBI.

Its import in the present case is that the CBI need not take the government’s permission as the alleged offence was committed when Mr. Prasada Rao was Revenue Minister in Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s government, a post that he does not hold now. The Supreme Court had ruled in the Chautalas’ case that the High Court of Punjab and Haryana was right in holding that the appellants had abused an entirely different office than the one they were holding on the date on which cognizance was taken.

Highly reliable sources said Mr. Narasimhan had also taken note of reports of the CBI’s 90-page memo as also those relating to the dissension in the Cabinet meeting held on November 23 by Health Minister D.L. Ravindra Reddy about sparing Mr. Prasada Rao from prosecution.

A leading Telugu daily had published contents of a ‘secret note’ circulated to the Cabinet which revealed that legal opinion was in favour of prosecuting Mr. Prasada Rao for entering into a criminal conspiracy while allotting land to Vanpic, a project promoted by Nimmagadda Prasad. The agreement was initially entered into with Vanpic Ports Private Ltd, but hundreds of acres of land was allotted to Vanpic Projects Ltd, the report said, quoting the ‘secret note’.

Keeping in view the totality of the circumstances, the Governor is reported to have concluded that it would be imprudent, legally, to rubber-stamp the Cabinet’s decision when the Supreme Court’s orders in the matter were crystal clear.