A.P. Skill Development case | SC upholds registration of IPC offences against Naidu, split on need for prior sanction for corruption charges

Justice Aniruddha Bose, the lead judge on the Bench, held that prior sanction from the competent authority under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act was necessary before proceeding against Mr. Naidu

January 16, 2024 01:59 pm | Updated 10:49 pm IST - New Delhi

Former Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu.

Former Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A Division Bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday delivered a split verdict in a petition filed by former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu to quash criminal proceedings against him in the skill development scam case.

The Bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M. Trivedi did not intervene in the remand order and registration of offences under the Indian Penal Code against Mr. Naidu, but were divided in their opinion on whether prior sanction from the competent authority, under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act, was necessary before levelling corruption charges against Mr. Naidu in the case.

Justice Bose, the lead judge on the Bench, held that prior sanction under Section 17A was mandatory before proceeding against Mr. Naidu. He said the State could still apply for it from the Governor.

The associate judge on the Bench, Justice Trivedi, however, said such prior approval was not required in the case.

Justice Trivedi said Section 17A did not apply retrospectively. The FIR against Mr. Naidu was registered prior to the amendment in the Act, inserting Section 17A, in July 2018.

The case was referred to the Chief Justice of India for listing it before an appropriate Bench of three judges. which would examine whether prior sanction had been necessary before initiating proceedings against Mr. Naidu under the anti-corruption law.

The case was reserved for judgment in October last year. Mr. Naidu is already out on regular bail.

He had argued through his counsel, senior advocate Harish Salve, that corruption charges against him would fail for lack of sanction under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The State, represented by senior advocate Ranjit Kumar and advocate Mahfooz A. Nazki, had countered that the case against Mr. Naidu was a “clear-cut” one of embezzlement and not remotely related to his duties of public office.

The State had argued that Mr. Naidu could not avail the protection of Section 17A.

Mr. Salve had contended that Section 17A was a protection tailored for public servants against regime revenge. He had submitted that no sanction was received under Section 17A before suddenly initiating prosecution against Mr. Naidu by registering a first information report, 21 months ago.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court had declined to quash the criminal cases filed against Mr. Naidu and had also refused to set aside the Anti-Corruption Bureau court’s order to remand him.

The High Court, in its September 22 order of last year, said the probe agency had initiated criminal action against Mr. Naidu after conducting extensive examination of witnesses and collection of documentary evidence following the registration of the crime in 2021. The investigation was at its final stage, the court had said.

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