AP: CONTROVERSIAL REPRIEVE
Legal experts question CM Naidu for dropping charges against party leaders facing criminal cases
Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu has been rather magnanimous with his Telugu Desam Party members, approving the withdrawal of prosecution of 23 leaders facing criminal cases, including his deputies K.E. Krishnamurthy and N. Chinnarajappa. But the move might backfire as legal experts say it violates Supreme Court guidelines.
Chief ministers are known to allow the dropping of frivolous charges against leaders, such as for participating in political agitations while in the Opposition. The ruling TDP’s earlier gesture of withdrawing prosecution of those who participated in the Samaikya Andhra agitation against the state’s bifurcation is an example. But Naidu has approved closure of cases involving serious charges, such as murder, attempt to murder, molestation and cases lodged under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. State HRD minister Ganta Srinivasa Rao, for instance, was booked in 2009 for attempt to murder, voluntarily causing hurt, causing grievous hurt, criminal trespass and unlawful assembly. K. Atchannaidu, the minister for backward classes welfare and empowerment, was named
23 TDP LEADERS, including the two deputy CMs, had cases against them dropped by Naidu
LEGAL EAGLES HAVE DEMANDED A WHITE PAPER EXPLAINING WHY THE CASES WERE DROPPED
in a 2008 case of molestation, causing hurt and criminal intimidation. Another notable case withdrawn was against law and justice minister K. Ravindra over creating public nuisance in 2014.
While hearing a case in 2005, the Supreme Court had set guidelines for governments and public prosecutors on employing discretionary powers to withdraw cases. Ruling that this could only be allowed in the interest of justice, the court had asked all subordinate judiciary to consider the relevant circumstances, including whether withdrawal of prosecution would further the cause of justice.
Justifying the Naidu government’s selective action, a home department official argues, “Many of the cases dropped were based on complaints filed in the heat of the moment or in political rivalry. Withdrawing these may be controversial but not consequential.”
Legal experts say a case is fit for withdrawal only if it’s likely to end in acquittal and its continuation is only causing harassment to the accused. While YSR Congress leader A. Ramakrishna Reddy has filed a PIL in the high court challenging the state government’s move, former high court judges P. Lakshmana Reddy and Chandra Kumar, former AP RTI commissioner P. Vijaya Babu and an NGO, the Forum for Good Governance, have demanded a white paper on the issue. “All details on a case by case basis should be published,” says Reddy.
FACING THE HEAT
N. Chandrababu Naidu presides over a meeting in Vijayawada