New Delhi: The Andhra Pradesh high court on Monday (November 20) granted regular bail to former chief minister and Telugu Desam Party chief N. Chandrababu Naidu in the skill development scam case.
Justice T. Mallikarjun Rao said, according to LiveLaw, that from the material on the record, it cannot be definitively concluded that the misappropriated amounts were diverted to the Telugu Desam Party’s bank accounts.
The judge said:
“The petitioner, A.37, was arrested on September 9, 2023, and remained in judicial custody until being granted interim bail on health grounds on October 31, 2023, following the court’s orders. Despite allegations of transferring misappropriated amounts to the T.D.P. party’s account, no prima facie evidence is presented to support this claim. This court views that such serious allegations should be backed by substantial material before seeking the remand of the petitioner. The court, at this point, views the lack of supportive material as a gap in the investigation’s conclusion that the alleged misappropriated amount had been transferred to the T.D.P. party’s account.”
The court also noted that Naidu could not be held responsible for all the discrepancies noted in the forensic audit report as per which out of the Rs 371 crore, at least Rs 241 crore were misappropriated by SISW and Design Tech and diverted to various shell companies.
“The Prosecution needs to clarify how the petitioner can be held responsible for such discrepancies, as it is not his duty, as the then Chief Minister, to verify and compare parties’ signatures…It remains to be clarified how the differences outlined in the report can be deemed the fundamental cause for the alleged misappropriation of funds,” the judge noted.
Earlier on October 31, the court had granted Naidu four weeks’ medical bail. He had been arrested by the CID on September 9 and has been in the Rajahmundry central prison since September 10.
The CID has listed Naidu as ‘accused number one’ in the alleged skill development scam. He is charged with criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery, breach of trust, destruction of evidence, and abetment.
The South First has reported that the scam is allegedly a Rs 279-crore one. The news outlet has also reported on Andhra Pradesh CID chief N Sanjay’s run-ins with Naidu’s kin.
TDP leaders Kaluva Srinivasulu, Bhuma Brahmananda Reddy, A.V. Subba Reddy, B.C. Janardhan Reddy and Akhila Priya were also arrested on the same day.
Naidu has claimed that this case is an act of political vendetta against him.