A special CBI court in Hyderabad on Friday (November 1) dismissed Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s petition for exemption from personal appearance before the court in connection with the alleged disproportionate assets case against him.
Jagan, who led his YSR Congress Party to a landslide victory in the assembly elections this May, had filed a petition in September pleading for exemption from the weekly hearing into the cases. He has not appeared in the court since he became the chief minister in May.
The YSRC chief had sought the exemption on various grounds including his new position as the chief minister, bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and the poor financial condition of the state. However, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) opposed his plea, saying that only the personal capacity of the petitioner has changed and the not the circumstances of the case.
Court agrees with CBI
The court rejected Jagan’s argument that his position as the chief minister made weekly appearances in court “difficult and costly”, while agreeing with the CBI that he may influence witnesses, if shown leniency.
It concurred with the CBI argument that exemption to Jagan would give him unwelcome liberty to do whatever he wanted, including influencing the witnesses.
Submitting its counter to the court of Principal Special Judge for CBI cases in Hyderabad, the CBI had argued that the exemption from personal appearance will give Jagan “an unsolicited liberty to influence the witnesses behind the iron wall of political, money and muscle power.”
The CBI said that the YSRC president was the prime accused in all the 11 chargesheets filed by the probing agency and should not be treated any differently.
“In all the 11 charge sheets, the petitioner (Jagan) stands as an accused in his individual capacity and as the representative of his privately-owned companies and therefore should attend the court as such,” the CBI had said, adding that Jagan’s argument — of weekly visits costing the state exchequer — were specious and merely aimed to distract.
Back in 2017, the Andhra Pradesh high court had rejected a similar plea by Jagan. He had then pleaded for exemption citing his duties as a legislator and the Leader of the Opposition. The high court, however, had ruled that he can apply for an exemption on a week-by-week basis.
The CBI had also alleged that Jagan had found ways to delay the trial that has not started even six years after the last chargesheet was filed. It further said the high court had earlier described the charges against Jagan as grave, affecting the economies of the state and the country.
The crux of charges against Jagan is that he had misused his father’s position to attract investments into his business ventures in return for doling out favours such as land allotments, irrigation contracts and mining leases. The CBI had disclosed that he took ₹1,172 crore from various investors as bribe and in turn helped them get favours from the state government.
However, Jagan has denied the quid pro quo charges and described the case as witch-hunting and a vindictive exercise that was undertaken since he quit the Congress in 2011 and floated his own party.
He was arrested and sent to Chanchalguda central jail in Hyderabad on May 27, 2012. He was granted bail on September 23, 2013, after 16 months of imprisonment.