AP: CON­TRO­VER­SIAL RE­PRIEVE

Le­gal ex­perts ques­tion CM Naidu for drop­ping charges against party lead­ers fac­ing crim­i­nal cases

India Today - - STATES - By Amar­nath K. Menon ANDHRA PRADESH

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

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