Andhra CM Jagan Reddy urges SC to restart Amravati land scam probe
- When the matter came up before a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and R Subhash Reddy on Friday, the bench adjourned it to April 7 as it had no time for a full fledged hearing.
The Andhra Pradesh government told the Supreme Court on Friday that the probe into the Amravati land scam involving the state’s former Advocate General and daughters of a sitting Supreme Court judge, should go on and the state has no objection if the same is court-monitored and handled by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The statement came forth in a petition filed by Andhra Pradesh government challenging an order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court which imposed a blanket ban on media in September 2020 to report on contents of the first information report (FIR) registered by state’s Anti Corruption Bureau. The FIR disclosed the alleged role played by former Advocate General Dammlapati Srinivas and 12 others in purchasing land in Amravati - the proposed state capital – at a throwaway price. On November 25 last year, the Supreme Court had lifted the media gag order imposed by the HC.
When the matter came up before a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and R Subhash Reddy on Friday, the bench adjourned it to April 7 as it had no time for a full fledged hearing. Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan who appeared for the state government told the Court that it was willing to concede to three demands put forth by the alleged accused. “No coercive action will be taken against the accused. Let the case be investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation and it can be court-monitored. These are some assurances we are willing to give that will cover nearly three quarters of the case of the other side. But let the investigation continue.”
The bench said, “The other side have heard what you have said. They will respond to your suggestion by the next date of hearing.” This is not the first time the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government has offered to transfer the case to CBI. In September 2020, Reddy had met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and requested the Centre to order a CBI probe into the alleged irregularities in Amravati land deals during the previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP) regime.
Presently, the case investigation has been stalled by the same order of the High Court by which the media gag was imposed. The apex court has not disturbed the directions of the HC staying investigation and no coercive action against Srinivas. The top court, however, restrained the High Court not to finally decide the writ petition pending before it.
As per the FIR, between June and December 2014, speculation was rife about Amravati being the prospective new capital of the state. Srinivas was Additional Advocate General from June 2014 to May 2016 and Advocate General from May 2016 to May 2019. Preliminary probe by ACB revealed that Srinivas was privy to information about exact location of future capital and with an intention to make pecuniary gain, his brother-in-law acquired close to 16 plots near Amravati. Some of these plots were sold to Srinivas, his wife and father-in-law at the same rates at which it was purchased from landowners. Certain plots were similarly sold to other individuals named in the FIR, which included close relatives of a senior Supreme Court judge, Justice NV Ramana.
Action in this case began on March 23, 2020 when the state government wrote to Union Government seeking probe by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into alleged irregularities in allotment of land at Amravati. This was based on findings of a Cabinet sub-committee in December 2019. A special investigation team was constituted in February 2020 which too got stayed by the High Court. On September 5, a fresh complaint raising the same allegation was filed that was marked to ACB. A preliminary enquiry led to lodging of FIR on September 15.
Srinivas told the Court on the previous date that as the state’s law officer he appeared in several criminal cases lodged against the present Chief Minister. His lawyers argued that it was “absurd to say that a law officer had prior knowledge of the exact location of capital” and told the Court that he was forced to approach the HC as secret investigation was started against him by digging information from income tax department and registration of FIR in order to “defame and scandalize” his reputation.