CBI opposes plea saying that if exempted, Jagan as the CM may influence witnesses in the case.
HYDERABAD: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has been seeking exemption from his personal appearance before a CBI court in Hyderabad in a disproportionate assets case that has been going on for the last six years. However, the CBI counsels have strongly opposed his plea on the ground that if exempted, Jagan as the Chief Minister might influence the witnesses in the case.
Jagan’s petition seeking exemption from personal appearance before the CBI special court is being heard by CBI judge B.R. Madhusudhan Rao for the last couple of months. After fiercely contested arguments on Friday, the judge reserved his verdict for 1 November. When the plea came up for hearing, the CBI has opposed it saying that occupying a higher position by the accused was not an advantage for him.
Jagan, who faces a clutch of cases regarding disproportionate assets filed by the CBI since 2012, went to jail for 15 months before 2014 and since then, has been appearing before the court every Friday. A CBI special court is hearing his cases on the day and all the accused, including some former ministers and IAS officers, were directed to be present before it during the trial.
On Friday, Jagan’s counsel S. Niranjan Reddy told the CBI court that as Chief Minister, Jagan had to attend many important duties and that it was not possible for him to come to Hyderabad all the way from Guntur in Andhra Pradesh to attend the court hearings. “Because of this norm of personal appearance, the Chief Minister has to spend two days every week which is a loss to the administration,” the counsel told the court.
Jagan’s counsel also explained that the Andhra Pradesh government had to spend Rs 60 lakh on each visit of the Chief Minister’s visit to the court. The expenditure includes the costs of the Chief Minister convoy, his security protocol and other bureaucratic procedures. Instead, the court can allow the accused to be represented through a lawyer who anyway would be available.
The counsel told the court that the trial court had every right to grant exemption from personal appearance of the accused depending on the circumstances. He told the court that Jagan had not been asking for complete exemption, but would appear before the court whenever it was required. The counsel submitted precedents when such exemptions were granted to the accused. This was refuted by special public prosecutor of CBI Surender Rao who argued that Jagan had already moved similar petitions seeking exemption from personal appearance before the court and the same was rejected twice in the past. As the issue had reached the High Court, too, and there was no relief to the accused, the CBI counsel pointed out.
There were heated arguments between both the counsels. Jagan’s lawyer objected to the language used by the CBI counsel that the accused might coerce witnesses, if granted exemption from personal appearance for hearings. Reddy told the court that Jagan had always been a law-abiding person and that he never sought any special relief in the whole trial of the case.
The CBI’s counsel contended that the only avenue before Jagan was to move the Supreme Court now and there was no need to grant exemption to him. The CBI counsel stuck to his previous arguments and maintained that if the accused was granted relief, it might lead to undue influence of witnesses in the case which is reaching final stages of the trial.
The issue assumes significance in view of Jagan now holding the post of Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. He has been finding it difficult to schedule his official appointments in view of his mandatory presence in CBI court in Hyderabad every Friday. He had to obtain specific permission from the court whenever he had to go abroad or New Delhi.