AP governor rejects cabinet stand on minister's prosecution

Andhra Pradesh Governor E S L Narasimhan has rejected the state Cabinet’s recommendation not to allow the CBI to prosecute Roads and Buildings Minister Dharmana Prasada Rao in connection with an illegal assets case involving the YSR Congress Party president Jagan Mohan Reddy.

According to official sources, the governor returned the recommendation, advising the state Cabinet to seek legal opinion on the issue.

On November 23, the state Cabinet passed a resolution turning down the CBI’s request to prosecute Prasada Rao. The allegations relate to the allotment of 28,000 acres of land for the Vodarevu and Nizampatnam Ports and Industrial Corridor (VANPIC) project in Prakasam district.

The controversial agreement was signed in 2008 when Y S Rajasekhara Reddy was the chief minister. As revenue minister, Prasada Rao had signed the deal of the project promoted by Ras Al Khaimah of the UAE and its local partner Matrix Enports Private Limited owned by Nimmagadda Prasad, who has since been arrested and lodged in the central jail.

Charge sheet

In its charge sheet, the CBI alleged that Nimmagadda was allotted land for the project in a quid pro quo deal for his investments of Rs 840 crore in Jagan’s business.

Apart from Jagan, former minister for infrastructure and investments M Venkataramana and bureaucrat K V Brahmananda Reddy have been jailed in the case.

Following the charge sheet, Prasada Rao submitted his resignation in August. However, the chief minister has been sitting over the resignation ever since. The governor is said to have returned the file based on the legal advice that the Cabinet resolution may not stand judicial scrutiny. 

In the Vineet Narain & Others vs Union of India case, the Supreme Court, in its verdict on December 18, 1997, laid down norms to be followed by the governments in sanctioning permission to the CBI and other agencies to prosecute senior public functionaries.

The apex court made it clear that there could be no double standards on part of the government in sanctioning permission for prosecution in such cases.

With the case acquiring political overtones, the options before the government are: To bide time for seeking legal opinion as advised by the governor; To let the CBI court decide on the CBI’s plea that it need not secure permission for prosecuting the minister.
If the CBI court decides in favour of the minister, resend the file to the governor requesting him to consider its advice once again.

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