Amaravati: Former Andhra Pradesh chief minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N Chandrababu Naidu was on Sunday remanded in judicial custody for 14 days by a local court in Vijayawada in connection with the multi-crore Skill Development Corporation scam.
Soon after the court came out with the order, the TDP called for a statewide bandh on Monday in protest against the arrest. Naidu has been taken to the Rajamahendravaram Central Prison, 200 km away from Vijayawada, amid tight security.
In a pre-dawn operation on Saturday at Nandyal, officers knocked on the door of the caravan in which Naidu was sleeping and arrested him for his alleged role in the Skill Development Corporation scam. He was termed the principal conspirator in the case.
The former CM was arrested by the CID around 6 am on Saturday from outside a marriage hall, where his caravan was parked, at Gnanapuram in Nandyal. After an arrest saga of more than 36 hours, the ACB Court gave the remand order around 6.50 pm on Sunday evening.
"It is a clear case of fraud involving Rs 370 crore. The court accepted our arguments," Ponnavolu Sudhakar Reddy, AP Additional Advocate General told PTI.
Naidu was arrested in connection with an alleged fraud case involving misappropriation of funds from the Skill Development Corporation, leading to a loss of Rs 300 crore to the state government, AP CID Chief N Sanjay said on Saturday.
A TDP official, in a post on the party's official account on X, said the arrest was pre-planned to spoil Naidu's wedding anniversary.
“Since September 10 is the wedding anniversary, it was conspired to illegally arrest Naidu on September 9 and make him sit in the CID office throughout the night, leaving him and his wife sleepless,” the post read. He added that Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy had deprived the couple of their anniversary joy.
The TDP chief informed the court that he was innocent. Supreme Court lawyer Siddharth Luthra, representing Naidu, argued that the CID needed to obtain the Governor's prior permission to arrest the TDP chief. However the court agreed with the government's counsel's counter on the same, another advocate who witnessed the court proceedings said.
Luthra also argued that the former CM was being falsely implicated in the case.
Meanwhile, senior YSRCP leader and advisor to AP government Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy lashed out at Naidu, saying that he and the opposition party were behaving as if something untoward had happened to them.
“Instead of bowing his (Naidu) head in shame for the crime committed, they (Naidu and TDP leaders) are bluffing in a bid to disturb the law and order situation in the state,” said Ramakrishna Reddy, addressing reporters immediately after the pronouncement of the verdict.
According to the remand report submitted to the court, the CID said Naidu was non-cooperative during interrogation and replied vaguely saying he did not remember certain issues.
Naidu was produced in an Anti-Corruption Bureau court in Vijayawada on Sunday morning amid tight security, a day after being arrested in a case of alleged corruption. Seeking his judicial custody, the remand report said, though the officials arranged a helicopter to take him to Vijayawada from Nandyal where he was arrested, the leader of the opposition refused.
The convoy was obstructed several times by TDP cadres, in an apparent attempt at intimidating law enforcement officials by virtue of Naidu's position.
"He was asked questions based on the note files, which form part of the evidence in this case diary. But to all the questions he was non-cooperative and replied vaguely that he could not recollect the facts. In this regard, the report was drafted in the presence of the mediators and duly attested by him," the report said.
The report further said after reaching the CID office, Naidu was questioned about his role in the offences in the presence of mediators. He was given breaks as per his request to consult a legal counsel, to meet the members of his family and have food and refreshments in between.
It said the TDP chief is not a flight risk. The CID alleged that Chandrababu Naidu and Telugu Desam Party were the "end beneficiaries" of the misappropriated funds. CID chief Sanjay had said Naidu was the principal conspirator in the case.
(With PTI inputs)