Consider making Srinivasa Reddy SIT head again, High Court tells government

A division bench of the A.P. High Court comprising Chief Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice P.V. Sanjay Kumar asked the State government to consider transferring senior IPS officer K. Srinivasa Reddy back to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) as head of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing into the liquor syndicates scam.

It ordered the government to report its decision to the court on April 27, the day before it closes for summer vacation.

The bench also made it clear that no officer of the ACB associated with the investigation into the liquor scam will be transferred without the court's permission. It suo motu impleaded the Chief Commissioner of Income Tax in the case and asked the IT Department to investigate into the matter.

It was dealing with writ petitions relating to the liquor scam filed by O.M. Debara, civil society activist, P.V. Krishnaiah, and Sobha Hymavathi of Telugu Mahila.

Gandra Mohan Rao, counsel for Mr. Debara, said that after the court called for status report, the SIT chief had been transferred at midnight, demoralising the investigating team. He said that the ACB be directed not to report to the government but to the court only.

Recalling a circular issued by the government in 1999 directing the ACB not to register a case against any MLA without clearance from an expert committee, he lamented that the panel had not been constituted. Mr. Krishnaiah said that the government was violating Article 47 of the Constitution providing for prohibition. A. Sudershan Reddy, advocate general, said that the government was not interfering with the functioning of the ACB.

After perusing the ACB's status report submitted earlier in a sealed cover, the bench expressed surprise at ‘unexplained urgency' in transferring and relieving Mr. Srinivasa Reddy and referred to ACB Director General Boobathi Babu's letter to the government advising against the move.

The bench noted the contention that some officers were acting against the interests of ACB and, given this scenario, the ACB DG should have his team in place.

Expressing surprise over the large number of white ration card and Antyodaya card holders being the successful bidders in many places, the court asked the ACB to look into the matter thoroughly. In view of the indication that highly placed functionaries were likely to figure during inquiry, the bench said that ACB can approach the court seeking specific directions.

The bench said that it is “extremely distressed at the manner in which BPL card holders are bidding for liquor shops in lakhs and crores” and directed the ACB to send all the material collected in this regard to the Income Tax department. The bench asked the ACB to file another status report by June 11.

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