For the first time after taking over the reins of Andhra Pradesh, the Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on Friday (January 10) appeared personally before a CBI special court in Hyderabad in connection with the disproportionate assets case.
The CBI court would be questioning Jagan, along with the ruling YSR Congress Party’s Parliamentary wing leader V Vijay Sai Reddy and others with regard to the charge sheets filed against them by the investigating agency in 2011 and 2012. Several former ministers and bureaucrats are also accused in the case.
The chief minister, along with his party colleagues Vijay Sai Reddy, MLA D Prasada Rao and some IAS officers, travelled from Vijayawada to attend the court session. Tight security arrangements were made at the Nampally criminal court complex as a large number of YSRCP supporters gathered near the court premises.
This is the first time that Jagan made a personal appearance in the court after assuming charge as the chief minister on May 30. Earlier, on November 1, the special court dismissed his petition for exemption from personal appearance before the court.
The chief minister had filed the petition under Section 317 of the Criminal Procedure Code seeking exemption from personal appearances, stating that he was not able to attend the court due to compelling reasons as he had the constitutional responsibility to rule the state. Also, his personal appearance in the court would cause a huge burden on the state exchequer, it was argued.
However, following a strong opposition from the CBI, the court rejected the petition. The investigating agency said that nothing had changed in the case except for the YSRCP president becoming the chief minister.
“There will be no more exemptions. The accused will have to attend the court on Fridays,” the CBI court judge conveyed to Jagan’s counsel.
After the questioning, the CBI court has scheduled January 17 as the next date for hearing. The court also rejected a fresh petition filed by the chief minister and directed him to attend the court on next Friday.
The CBI argued that Jagan might influence the witnesses if given exemption from personal appearance. It also argued that the YSRCP chief was the prime accused in all the 11 chargesheets filed by the agency and should not be treated any differently.
Jagan, who has been facing the CBI case since 2011, was arrested and sent to jail in May 2012. After spending 16 months in Chanchalguda central prison in Hyderabad, he was granted bail in September 2013.
The crux of the charges against Jagan was that he had misused the position of his father 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 because he had quit Congress in 2011 and floated his own party to carry forward the ideals of his charismatic father.
The CBI had filed a total of 11 charge sheets against Jagan and the other accused in the disproportionate assets and quid pro quo cases. “In all the 11 charge sheets, the petitioner (Jagan) stands as an accused in his individual capacity and as representative of his privately owned companies and therefore should attend the court as such,” the CBI argued.