Chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy in a fix
Putting the Congress-led government in Andhra Pradesh in a tight spot, the Supreme Court on March 12 ordered to issue notices to six ministers and eight bureaucrats from the state pertaining to disproportionate assets case against Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, son of late Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy. Jagan is a Member of Parliament from Kadappa constituency and president of Y S R Congress Party.
The apex court passed the order while admitting a special leave petition filed by a Nellore-based advocate P Sudhakar Reddy. The petitioner alleged that despite having enough evidence, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was not probing the role of these ministers and bureaucrats in the disproportionate assets case against Jagan.
It's alleged the ministers and the bureaucrats had issued 26 government orders during the tenure of late chief minister favouring industrialists and individuals who in turn invested in Jagan’s companies.
The court has sought responses from the ministers, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers and the CBI through its notices.
"We will decide our next course of action only after receiving the notices," says Industries minister G Geetha Reddy. According to her, the ministers acted as per the rules and there were no individual decisions.
CBI probe on
The CBI, following directives of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in August last year, is already investigating into the case pertaining to huge wealth amassed by Jagan. The agency arrested his family auditor V Vijay Sai Reddy in January. The CBI has accused Jagan of money laundering and securing large-scale investments in his companies and businesses in a quid pro quo arrangement using his father’s office as chief minister. Many industrialists and individuals benefitted from the government orders and decisions allotting land, licences for setting up industries and mining leases, the CBI noted in its First Information Report (FIR).
The petitioner argued that the late chief minister alone cannot be held responsible for the government orders and that it was the collective responsibility of the ministers and the bureaucrats in each decision. Reddy also pointed out that though the CBI had registered a number of cases against several others in connection with Jagan’s case, it failed to register any case against the six ministers and the concerned IAS officers. He alleged that these people were directly involved in issuing the controversial government orders in violation of laws between 2004 and 2009.
Reddy had earlier approached the special CBI court, which is hearing the assets case against Jagan, pleading the CBI also investigate the roles of the ministers and officers. The petition was rejected, and he subsequently approached the high court, which too rejected his plea. Reddy then moved the apex court against the high court’s decision.
Chief Minister in dilemma
The court order has come as an embarrassment for the state government and has put chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy in a dock. If the state government defends issuing of the 26 controversial government orders it will give a chance to Jagan, who split the Congress party forming Y S R Congress party and now in the opposition, to claim his innocence in the disproportionate asset case which is being probed by the CBI. On the other hand, if it drops the tainted ministers, it will create a political crisis in the state because all these ministers can lead to strong rebellions within the party.
The chief minister defended his colleagues in a press conference on March 12 saying the court had not passed any comment on them and it had just sought their responses on the petition. Meanwhile, the opposition parties led by Telugu Desam Party (TDP) stalled the proceedings of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly demanding the dismissal of the “tainted” ministers.
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