Setback to Naidu as the SC stays AP HC gag order on media

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(Our Online Desk)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday has stayed an order of the AP High Court restraining the media from reporting the contents of an FIR filed by the state’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) into alleged Amaravati land scam.

In fact, the ACB sleuths have registered an FIR against the former Advocate-General and 13 others, including two daughters of the SC judge, on the ground that they purchased land in Amaravati area knowing well that it wold be chosen as the state’s new capital.

SC passed the order while hearing an appeal filed by Andhra Pradesh government against the September 15 order of High Court.

The AP High Court issued a notice under special original jurisdiction stating that ‘no steps shall be taken in furtherance to FIR of ACB, Guntur, dated 15.09.2020, which has been registered after filing of this writ petition against any of the accused. The investigation is also stayed’. The order further went on to say that ‘it is further directed that the news in regard to registration of FIR shall not be made public in any electronic, print or social media to foist the office of a former Advocate General and also with respect to the other alleged accused persons’

The state’s ACB took up the case on a complaint from Komatla Srinivasa Swamy Reddy, alleging that by misusing official position these judicial officers have bought these lands on benami names.  When the media went hammer and tongs reporting the alleged scam, the state High Court has issued a gag order restraining media from reporting the details of the scam.  But, the government, which felt otherwise as most of the judicial officials either in the state High Court and also in apex court do have vested interests as they were also close to the erstwhile Telugu Desam Party government and its leader.

“Our stand vindicated.  We welcome the apex court order and hope facts will come out in the ongoing ACB investigations,” said a senior YSRCP functionary close to the Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy on condition of anonymity.

It may be recalled that the state chief minister Y S Jaganmohan Reddy has also dashed off a letter to the Chief Justice of Supreme Court accusing that the HC’s gag order has come under the influence of an apex court judge.  His letter indeed stirred a political storm as the apex court judge tipped to become next CJI. The said judge is known to be close to TDP Chief Nara Chandrababu Naidu.

The apex court’s stay order not only considered as a severe setback to the Opposition TDP and its leader Naidu, but also to the judge, who set to succeed as the next CJI.

According to the FIR, the preliminary investigation revealed that it is a case of abusing the official position by the then Addl Advocate General Dammalapati Srinivas and thereby obtaining of pecuniary advantage in the form of landing properties for his fatherin-law, brother-in-law and his associates/acquaintances from June 2014 to December 2014 and later obtaining such pecuniary advantage for himself and his wife through purchase of some of these properties in the years 2015 and 2016.

The FIR stated that this is a case of abusing of official position by the then Addl. Advocate General, Andhra Pradesh, Sri Dammalapati Srinivas. Those landed properties which were purchased during that period were located either in the Core Capital area or within the limits of CRDA but abutting the Core Capital Area. A probe by a ministerial sub-committee has revealed a scam that involved a purchase of 4,069.94 acres in Krishna and Guntur districts through the acts of “insider trading.”

Obviously taken aback by the state HC stay, the state had filed a petition in the Supreme Court, against the AP HC order barring media from reporting on a FIR filed. The Government in its petition has requested the court to consider quashing the gag and also on the stay based on the following grounds:

–           The whole petition was misconceived.

–           The petition was entertained even before the registration of the FIR

–           Investigations should not be stayed as a matter of routine

–           Allegations in the FIR

–               One of the accused approached the High Court. How can the HC relieve all the 13 accused in the FIR.

–           No provision in the advocated act, 1961, prescribes protection of advocates.

The three-judge Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, MR Shah and Subhash Reddy said The Andhra Pradesh HC shall not decide till January end on the matter related to alleged irregularities in land transaction in Amaravati.

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