[Skill Development Program Scam] Andhra Pradesh HC Stays Proceedings in Police Custody Plea Against Ex-CM Chandrababu Naidu till September 18

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Allegedly, Naidu, in pursuance of criminal conspiracy, while holding his office as Chief Minister colluded with other accused to commit misappropriation of government funds to the tune of Rs 279 crores

The Andhra Pradesh High Court has ordered the Special Judge for trial of SPE & ACB Cases-cum-Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge not to insist former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu to file counter in the police custody petition till September 18, 2023.

The high court's this order in effect leads to a stay on the proceedings before the trial court in connection with the skill development program scam case against Naidu.

The bench of Justice K Sreenivasa Reddy posted the matter on September 19, 2023, for further hearing.

Naidu, who is alleged to have been involved in criminal conspiracy and collusion with others, leading to the misappropriation of government funds amounting to a staggering Rs 279 crore during his tenure as Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, had moved the high court against the Special ACB Court's order of sending him to 14 day-judicial custody.

A Special Court ACB in Vijayawada had found a prima facie case against Naidu, potentially implicating him in offenses under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The Special Court's order read, "There is prima facie material to suffice the nexus of accused no.37 with accused nos.1, 2,6,8, 38 and other representatives of shell companies. Similarly there is prima facie sufficient material eliciting the role of accused no.37 (Naidu) in approval of Skill Development Project and its activities to attract the offences under Secs.409 IPC, and Secs.13 (2) r/w 13 (1) (c) and (d) of P.C.Act".

Allegedly, government funds originally intended for a skill development project were funneled into various shell companies without executing any work or providing competent service. A tripartite agreement, allegedly in violation of government orders, resulted in the release of Rs. 370 crore by the Government of Andhra Pradesh.

Before the Special Court, it was submitted that in a report submitted by the Chairman of Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation (APSSDC), it was claimed that Naidu in collusion with his henchman G.Subba Rao and K.Lakshmi Narayana, IAS Retired, MD & CEO, Director for APSSDC, and other accused of Siemens Industry Software (India) Private Limited and DesignTech System Private Limited approved the budget of 370 crores even though adverse remarks/ comments noted by the officials of the government.

The report suggested that officials of Siemens Industry Software (India) Private Limited and DesignTech System Private Limited misappropriated at least Rs 241 crore out of these Rs 370 crore, in the name of the Skill Development project, failing to fulfill their obligations under the project.

The Special Court had held that "the material on record prima facie made out the case against Naidu for the alleged offences under Secs.418, 420, 465, 468, 471, 409, 201, 109 r/w 34 & 37, 120-B IPC and Secs.12, 13 (2) r/w 13 (1) (c) and (d) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988".

As a consequence of these findings, the Special ACB Court had remanded Naidu to 14 days of judicial custody. However, considering the security concerns raised by Naidu, the court had decided to house him in the well-equipped Central Prison, Rajamahendravaram.

Case Title: Nara Chandrababu Naidu v. State of Andhra Pradesh