Andhra minister gets court relief in graft case

Hyderabad, April 29 (IANS) A cabinet minister Monday received a breather in the Andhra Pradesh High Court which set aside a trial court’s decision to take cognizance of corruption charges against him without a government sanction to prosecute him.

Justice B. Seshasayana Reddy, who had reserved the orders on the petition of Roads and Buildings Minister Dharmana Prasada Rao last week, quashed the orders of the lower court which took cognizance of the offences allegedly committed by the minister in a case of illegal assets linked to YSR Congress party leader Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy.

A principal special court for Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) cases had initially concluded that the sanction was a necessary precursor to taking cognizance of the offences.

After the order of the court, the investigating agency approached the state government for permission to prosecute the minister but the government refused to give the sanction.

The trial court Jan 21 altered its order to say that no sanction for the prosecution of the minister was required under the prevention of corruption law as he was now handling a different portfolio.

Dharmana, who held the revenue portfolio in the cabinet of late Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, was named as an accused by the CBI in the fourth chargesheet filed in the case in August last year.

The minister challenged the Jan 21 order of the CBI court on the ground that he was not heard before the trial court passed the order.

His counsel contended that section 362 of Criminal Procedure Code bars any criminal court from reviewing or modifying an order passed by it earlier.

Additional Solicitor General Ashok Bhan, appearing for the CBI, told the court that Dharmana’s portfolio was changed after the 2009 assembly elections and there was no need for the sanction for his prosecution.

The CBI charged Dharmana with abuse of power in a land project, one of the several aspects of the disproportionate assets case.

He had allegedly violated rules to allocate huge chunks of land for a project in return for the investment its promoter Nimmagadda Prasad allegedly made in the companies owned by Jaganmohan Reddy, son of then chief minister Rajasekhara Reddy.

In the same case, the CBI last year arrested Mopidevi Venkatramna, who was minister for infrastructure in YSR’s cabinet. He was excise minister at the time of his arrest.

In a separate proceeding in the trial court, the judicial custody of Jaganmohan Reddy, Mopidevi, Nimmagadda Prasad and other accused were extended till May 11.

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