N Chandrababu Naidu case: Supreme Court says Section 17A PC Act cannot be interpreted so as to frustrate its objective

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The Supreme Court on Monday expressed its reservations about liberal interpretation of the provision on requirement of prior sanction to probe a public servant under the Prevention of Corruption Act. [Nara Chandrababu Naidu vs State of Andhra Pradesh and Anr].

A bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi was hearing Telegu Desam Party (TDP) leader and former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s plea to quash the first information report (FIR) registered against him in the Andhra Pradesh skill development scam.

“The very object of the Act is to prevent corruption, and thus the interpretation of Section 17A cannot be such that it frustrates the objective of the Act,” Justice Trivedi said while referring to the provision for prior approval to conduct a probe into any offence allegedly committed by a public servant.

Justice Trivedi made the comment in the backdrop of the submission made by Naidu’s counsel Senior Advocate Harish Salve, who said that Section 17A should be followed at every stage including inquiry and investigation.

While responding to the top court’s observations on the provision, Salve submitted that “Section 17A strengthens the Act itself” as it protects the officer and also ensures that investigation is done fairly.

Salve also argued,

“Parliament has given the retrospectivity to this [17A] and said that even against an ex public servant you take the permission. Parliament knew they are enacting this law for investigation into very preliminary things”.

Justice Bose then pointed out that for Naidu, there were some peripheral facts as well. The Court will resume hearing in the matter on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Justice Trivedi during the course of the hearing also expressed her reservations against the maintainability of caveat applications in criminal cases.

The bench was hearing the TDP leader’s plea to quash the first information report (FIR) against him in the Andhra Pradesh skill development scam case. The High Court had earlier rejected Naidu’s plea leading to the present appeal before the Supreme Court.

A bevy of senior lawyers are representing Naidu before the apex court in the matter.

The investigation against Naidu centers around a scheme that allegedly diverted government funds intended for a skill development project into various shell companies through fraudulent invoices.

Naidu was arrested and later remanded to judicial custody in the matter on September 10.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court had, on September 22, dismissed his quashing plea leading to the instant appeal before the apex court.

Earlier, Justice SV Bhatti had recused from the hearing the matter when it reached the top court.

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