Skill Development Scam case: SC delivers a split verdict on Chandrababu Naidu’s plea to quash FIR and refers the matter to a larger bench

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Today (January 16, 2024), the Supreme Court (SC) of India delivered a split verdict on a plea by former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and TDP (Telugu Desam Party) Chief N. Chandrababu Naidu seeking to quash FIR (First Information Report) in the skill development scam case. The bench referred the matter to the Chief Justice of India for listing it before a larger three-judge bench. The split verdict was delivered today by a two-judge bench comprising Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Bela M. Trivedi. The SC bench dissented on a point of law regarding whether prior approval before the initiation of the investigation of the FIR against Naidu under the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act was required from the competent authority. As the bench has a split view regarding the interpretation of Section 17A of the PC Act, Justice Bose said, “As we have taken different opinions on the interpretation of this section, as also applicability on the appellant, we refer the matter to the Chief Justice of India for appropriate directions.” 

On September 09 last year, Chandrababu Naidu was arrested by the state Crime Investigation Department (CID) and was granted interim medical bail in October 2023 by the Andhra Pradesh High Court. On October 17, 2023, the Supreme Court of India reserved its judgment after hearing the arguments and contentions of both parties. Earlier on September 25, the matter was mentioned before the top Court for urgent listing. The petition addressed by the bench stated that “Section 17-A provides a filter from vexatious litigation. The present scenario of regime revenge and political vendetta is exactly what Section 17-A seeks to restrict by protecting innocent persons. The initiation of investigation without such approval vitiates the entire proceedings since inception and the same is a jurisdictional error.” 

The SC bench, today, gave a split decision and referred the matter for further listing to a larger three-judge bench.