Amaravati: When Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy was arrested by the CBI in 2012 in an alleged disproportionate assets case that had hit the national headlines and even after nearly 12 years, trial is yet to begin in any of the 11 cases registered by the central agency.
Jagan Mohan Reddy, who became the Chief Minister in 2019, has been charged with criminal conspiracy, cheating, dishonesty, inducing delivery of property, taking gratification (accepting bribe), criminal breach of trust, forgery, criminal misconduct by public servant and corruption.
According to the affidavit filed by him before the Election Commission in 2019, there are seven Enforcement Directorate (ED) cases in which he has been charged with money laundering.
Petitions by the rebel MP of Jagan Mohan Reddy’s party YSRCP has brought the focus back on the cases. Currently the Supreme Court is hearing two petitions seeking transfer of the case outside the Telugu states and cancellation of Jagan’s bail.
In November 2023, the Supreme Court issued notices to the CBI, Jagan Mohan Reddy, YSRCP MP V. Vijay Sai Reddy and others who were named as accused in the cases registered by the CBI and ED over the allegations of enriching through quid pro quo transactions and money laundering.
The Supreme Court asked the CBI to explain why it is taking so long to begin trial and what is the present status of cases
The apex court is hearing K. Raghu Ramakrishna Raju’s petition seeking directions to transfer the trial of the case pending before a court in Hyderabad to any state other than Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
He argued in his petition that the trial of the cases has not begun even after 10 years of filing of charge sheet. He stated that hundreds of discharge petitions have been filed only to delay the judicial process.
A bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice S.V.N. Bhatti had asked the CBI to explain why there was a delay in the completion of the trial in the case.
The petitioner stated that conscience is shaken by the manner in which state machinery (CBI) is being manipulated to the point of apathy to suit the sitting chief minister of the state of Andhra Pradesh.
He had alleged that after having illegally and unjustly enriched himself and various companies floated by him to the tune of Rs 40,000 crore and necessarily having caused loss to that extent to the public exchequer, the chief minister has ensured that the criminal trial against him remains dormant and no fruitful steps are taken against him.
Also in November, the Supreme Court sought a response from Jagan Mohan Reddy and the CBI on a plea seeking cancellation of bail granted to him in a disproportionate assets case.
A bench of Justice Abhay S Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal issued a notice to Reddy and the agency on a plea filed by Ramakrishna Raju.
Raju mentioned that the disproportionate assets case was registered in 2012 and the CBI filed 11 chargesheets.
The cases related to alleged ‘quid pro quo’ investments into Jagan’s firms. There were allegations that various companies made investments in Jagan’s firms for various favours allegedly bestowed on them during the tenure of his father late Y. S. Rajasekhar Reddy as chief minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh between 2004 and 2009.
Raju moved the court after his petition seeking cancellation of bails of Jagan and his close aide Vijaya Sai on the ground of alleged violation of bail conditions Jagan’s bail was dismissed by the CBI Court and later by the Telangana High Court in 2021.
The Lok Sabha member from Narsapur had voiced the apprehension that Jagan Mohan Reddy may try to influence the witnesses in the case.
Raju’s lawyer Balaji Srinivasan had contended that the Telangana High Court erred as the order was passed mechanically without appreciating that the accused had breached the bail conditions. He also challenged the order granting exemption to Reddy from personal appearance in the trial
However, both Jagan Mohan Reddy and Vijaya Sai Reddy had submitted to the court that they did not violate any bail conditions. They claimed that Raju filed the petitions for political and personal gains.
Describing Raju’s petition as an attempt to tarnish his reputation, Jagan had claimed that the petitioner failed to make out a case for cancellation of bail.
In another development relating to the case, the Telangana High Court in November 2023 issued notice to Jagan Mohan Reddy on a petition filed by former MP Chegnodi Harirama Jogaiah seeking directions to expedite the hearing in the disproportionate assets case against him.
The former MP He sought directions to resolve the case before Andhra Pradesh Assembly elections scheduled in 2024. The court, however, raised an objection to this and asked the petitioner to amend his petition.
Jagan had received a major relief in 2022 after the Telangana High Court exempted him from personal appearance in cases.
However, the court made it clear that in accordance with subsection (2) of Section 205 of the CrPC, the petitioner must appear on the date of the hearing if the CBI court decides that his presence is required.
In his petition in the high court, Jagan contended that he was not in a position to personally attend the court proceedings every Friday as he had the constitutional responsibility of discharging his official duties in the capacity of the chief minister.
Moreover, his regular visits to the court would also cause a huge burden on the state exchequer, as the official machinery had to make arrangements for his security and travel every week.
The CBI had submitted that filing petitions under Section 205 of the CrPC one after the other are part of a well-thought-out strategy to delay the proceedings. For the last 10 years, the case is only at the stage of framing charges.
Prayer for exemption from personal appearance can be made and considered when the trial actually commences, the agency had said.
Earlier, the special court for CBI and ED cases in Hyderabad had denied him exemption from personal appearances in the court.
The CBI court expressed its displeasure over Jagan’s petitions seeking exemption from appearance every week. The judge commented that Jagan cannot continuously seek exemptions from court appearances.
Jagan spent 16 months in jail before he was released on bail in September 2013.
The CBI had booked the case against Jagan, then a MP, in 2012 after Andhra Pradesh High Court had ordered CBI inquiry into the alleged amassing of huge wealth and money laundering by him.
The court passed the order while treating a letter by Congress leader and then state minister P. Shankar Rao as the petition. He had sought a probe by the CBI into the “ill-gotten” wealth of Jagan.
Rao had alleged that Jagan’s income, which was only Rs 11 lakh in March 2004, had gone up to Rs 43,000 crore.
Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader K. Yerran Naidu and others had also filed the petitions seeking CBI probe against Jagan.
The CBI filed altogether 11 charge sheets, mentioning Jagan as the accused number one.
Some ministers in Rajasekhara Reddy’s cabinet, several IAS officers and industrialists are named as accused in the cases.
Jagan had termed the cases politically motivated as he had quit the Congress party to launch YSRCP.
Ever since YSRCP came to power in 2019, his political opponents have been alleging that he has a secret deal with the BJP-led government at the Centre.
They cite the support extended by YSRCP on all issues including crucial Bills in Parliament.
Jagan’s sister Y. S. Sharmila, who recently joined the Congress and was appointed party chief in the state, has also alleged that YSRCP has surrendered the state’s interests to the Modi government.
“All the three parties YSRCP, TDP and Jana Sena are tools in the hands of the BJP,” she said.
Jagan, whose party has 22 members in Lok Sabha and nine in Rajya Sabha, not only stayed away from the anti-BJP front but also bailed out the NDA government on many occasions.