Amaravati: The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Monday granted regular bail to TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu in the Skill Development Corporation scam case, noting that discretion to grant bail should be exercised judiciously in a humane and compassionate manner.
TDP general secretary Nara Lokesh termed the bail as a ‘moment of victory’ for the people of Andhra Pradesh.
The court converted Naidu's four-week interim medical bail in this case into absolute bail and ordered the former chief minister's release on regular bail, considering his age, old age-related ailments, non-flight risk and other reasons.
"The interim bail granted to A37 (Naidu) dated October 31 is made absolute, and the petitioner (Naidu) is ordered to be released on regular bail on the bail bond already furnished by him," the court said in its order.
However, the interim bail conditions such as refraining from making any public comments related to the Skill Development Corporation scam case or organising or participating in public rallies and meetings will continue to be in force till November 28.
The High Court said these conditions will be relaxed from November 29.
Further, the court directed Naidu to produce his medical reports to the Special Court in Vijayawada on or before November 28 instead of submitting them to the Superintendent of Rajamahendravaram central prison.
The court said it was not convinced by Naidu’s claim that the Skill Development Corporation scam case was politically motivated against him as regime revenge by the incumbent government.
However, the court noted that Naidu indirectly influenced witnesses, co-accused and party members in this case lacks substantiating material. Also, it observed that the TDP supremo influenced key witnesses and hindered the investigation also lacked supporting evidence.
The court said that it cannot enter into in-depth analysis of the case so as to hold a mini-trial.
"It is also unnecessary to give lengthy reasons at the time of granting bail. This is a matter that will, of course, be dealt with by the trial Judge," the court said in its order.
Moreover, the court said that Naidu was shown as an accused person after one year and 10 months after the registration of the crime.
"The case against him was filed just before his arrest. There is no indication on the record that during this period of one year and 10 months, the petitioner (Naidu) interfered with the investigation. The prosecution has not made any such claim either," the court pointed out.
Further, the court observed that discretion to grant bail should be exercised judiciously and in a humane and compassionate manner.
In its bail order, the court took cognisance that except Naidu, all the other accused in the Skill Development Corporation scam case have been released on regular or anticipatory bail.
Likewise, the court said Naidu’s Z plus security cover provided by the National Security Guard is a fact that he is not a flight risk and there is no possibility of tampering with evidence or influencing witnesses, considering his age of 73 years, old age-related ailments and others.
Earlier on November 16, following lengthy arguments in this case by Additional Advocate General (AAG) P Sudhakar Reddy for the Andhra Pradesh Police Crime Investigation Department (CID) and Supreme Court lawyer Siddarth Luthra on behalf of Naidu, the court reserved its judgement and pronounced it on Monday.
The court highlighted that the observations made in the bail order should be confined to the bail application alone.
The TDP chief recently underwent cataract surgery at L V Prasad Hospital in Hyderabad.
He was arrested on September 9 and released on interim medical bail on October 31, which is now made regular.
Naidu was arrested for allegedly misappropriating funds from the Skill Development Corporation, which resulted in a purported loss of over Rs 300 crore to the state exchequer.
Reacting to the court order, TDP general secretary Nara Lokesh termed the bail as a ‘moment of victory’ for the people of Andhra Pradesh.
"The court in its ruling issued numerous strong observations, delivering a decisive rebuttal to the YSRCP government. The people of Andhra Pradesh know in their hearts that the cases against Naidu are false, fake and fabricated," Lokesh posted on 'X'.
TDP national spokesperson Pattabhi Ram Kommareddy said today’s high court judgment granting bail to Naidu is a slap in the face of Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy’s government as it had "totally rubbished aside all the baseless allegations".
Speaking to PTI, he said, "We hope that at least after today’s judgement the ruling YSRCP will stop this kind of mudslinging and foisting of false cases and learn to fight democratically."