The Supreme Court of India (SC) is going to hear both sides of the argument with regard to the Andhra Pradesh High Court issuing a stay on the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe into the sensational Amaravati Land Scam.
On September 15, 2020, the then Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh J K Maheshwari issued a stay on the SIT probe in response to a petition filed by the former Advocate General Damalapati Srinivas. The High Court also passed a gag order against media reportage and social media discussions on the contents of the FIR in land scam.
In November last year the Supreme Court issued a notice on the petition filed by the State of Andhra Pradesh against the interim order issued by the High Court and also vacated the gag order. The Supreme Court hearing the Amaravati Land Scam case is being seen as a positive development by the anti-corruption activists.
The new Andhra Pradesh Government elected to power at the end of 2019 ordered a probe into the several irregularities in the purchase of land by former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and his cronies in Amaravati, the area, selected as the new capital of the bifurcated Andhra Pradesh.
It was found that Telugu Desam leaders with the help of real estate brokers intimidated the holders of assigned lands to forfeit their rights for a paltry sum and then got a special Government Order that allowed those who took possession of the assigned land to enjoy the benefits of the land-pooling scheme announced by the then Telugu Desam government.
The SIT was also to investigate the “insider trading” of land by TDP leaders and even Ministers who were privy to location of the new capital. As part of the insider trade land was purchased in the Amaravati area for a song before it was announced that it would be the new capital and was disposed off at premium rates later.
As soon as the SIT was announced the Telugu Desam leaders represented by former AG Srinivas filed a petition in High Court seeking a stay on the investigation alleging that it was “regime revenge”.
The senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan representing the Andhra Pradesh Government in his submission to the Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice Vineet Saran said, “Let the investigation proceed because you will get the facts then. We have asked the CBI to come in. Let the process be done normally. In this case there should be an oversight of a Judge,” suggesting that the court should monitor the SIT investigation.
Mr Dhavan in his submission added that “the Supreme Court has never stopped an investigation before. This petition (against the SIT probe) is a vengence petition of a lost election. It talks of despotic rule, nasty Gestapo.” Things could not get any worse, he suggested.