Hyderabad: A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Hyderabad on Monday sent Congress rebel Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy to 14 days’ judicial remand, a day after his arrest on charges that he amassed assets disproportionate to his income during the years that his late father was the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh.
Reddy, 39, member of Parliament (MP) from Kadapa and chief of the YSR Congress party, was taken amid tight security to Chanchalguda central prison in the city where he will be lodged until 11 June. Principal judge A. Pullaiah allowed Reddy’s petition that he be treated as a special prisoner.
Being an MP and the leader of a political party, the businessman-politician has the stature to influence the case and tamper with evidence, Pulliah said before ordering the judicial remand. Pullaiah also dismissed an anticipatory bail petition filed last week by Reddy.
The arrest and judicial remand precede crucial by-elections on 12 June to 18 state assembly and one Lok Sabha seat in Andhra Pradesh.
Reddy was arrested by CBI on Sunday on charges that he misused the office of his father Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who was Andhra Pradesh chief minister in 2004-09, to attract investments into his companies from individuals and businesses in return for granting them official favours in the form of land allotments, contracts and mining leases.
The senior Reddy, popularly known as YSR, died in a September 2009 helicopter crash. Sidelined by the leadership of the Congress party that governs Andhra Pradesh, Jagan Mohan Reddy quit the party in 2010 and went on to form his own political outfit, which he named after his late father.
The timing of his arrest and judicial remand are significant because they precede the elections seen to be crucial for both the YSR Congress and the ruling Congress, analysts said.
“Judiciary and CBI don’t go by election schedules,” said K. Nageshwar, an independent member of the legislative council. “Technically, the court may be right. We cannot accuse courts of being partisan. But the common man does not understand the difference and will obviously get a feeling about the timing that would indicate Jagan is being deliberately kept out of the election.”
CBI has charged the businessman-politician, who has media interests including the Sakshi newspaper and television channel, under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The charges include criminal conspiracy, cheating, criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts; he has also been charged under certain provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
CBI said Jagan Mohan Reddy’s actions have caused a loss of Rs 1,200 crore to the public exchequer. By influencing his father YSR, he “hoodwinked” poor people by getting thousands of acres of agricultural land allotted to special economic zones (SEZs) and became richer by Rs 300 crore, Ashok Bhan, CBI counsel, told the court. Just before the judge delivered his order, Reddy’s counsel requested the court that his client be granted permission to address it. “I have cooperated with the CBI. In spite of my engagements, when the CBI asked me to appear before it, I cooperated. Never have I failed to answer the questions they posed. I answered all their questions, maybe I did not give them the answers they wanted,” Jagan Mohan Reddy said.
Earlier, CBI contended that Reddy did not answer pertinent questions and his answers reflected a “camouflage of all transactions”. “He flip-flopped. He dilly-dallied,” Bhan said.
Reddy’s lawyers termed his late Sunday evening arrest “pre-emptive” and “abuse of law”. They attributed political motives to his arrest.
“The entire scheme shows it is an attempt to somehow stop him (from campaigning),” Jagan Mohan Reddy’s counsel Mukul Rohtagi said. Reddy’s wife Y.S. Bharathi and uncle Y.S. Vivekananda Reddy were also present in the crowded court.
Jagan also voiced his frustration about the timing of his arrest. “I don’t know why they have booked this case against me. Why they have arrested me. When I am in the midst of by-elections, I am supposed to campaign for my candidates. The whole country is looking at these elections,” he told the court in Telugu. His mother Y.S. Vijayamma will now spearhead the party’s campaign, a move Nageshwar said will shift neutral votes in favour of the YSR Congress party. “Once Vijayamma jumps into the campaign, she cannot be accused of any political scandal. She was not part of the administration. When her husband is not alive, her son is in jail, and she being a woman automatically creates a lot of public sympathy,” he said.
Chief minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy denied political motives behind Jagan Mohan Reddy’s arrest. “The CBI investigation is being carried out as per the direction of the (Andhra Pradesh) high court,” he said at a press conference. “It’s unfortunate that they (YSR Congress party) are trying to politicize the arrest and investigation by CBI. Rather than making false allegations against the Congress party, Jagan Mohan Reddy needs to prove his innocence before the court.”
Viswanath Pilla contributed to this story.