CBI argues for Gali’s custody

CBI argues for Gali’s custody

Hyderabad: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) told a special court on Thursday that it was vital for the agency to subject mining baron and former Karnataka minister Gali Janardhan Reddy and his brother-in-law to an extended interrogation, as it pressed its case for nine more days of custody of the duo, arrested in connection with an illegal mining case in Andhra Pradesh.

CBI counsel B. Ravindranath said the agency had sufficient evidence to arrest them, but needed more material to prepare a chargesheet against Janardhan Reddy and B.V. Srinivas Reddy, a director and managing director, respectively, of Obulapuram Mining Co. (OMC).

In the six-day custody it had of the two men this month, the agency had not elicited sufficient information from the Reddy duo, and needs more time to interrogate them, the lawyer said.

Judge Naga Maruthi Sharma will deliver his order on the CBI petition - as well as one for bail by the Reddys - on Friday.

Janardhan Reddy and Srinivas Reddy were arrested on 5 September in Karnataka and brought to Andhra Pradesh. Barring the six days of interrogation by CBI, they have been in Hyderabad’s Chanchalguda central jail under judicial custody, which keeps them beyond the reach of India’s premier investigating agency.

The CBI has alleged they had in 2007 secured a mining licence in Andhra Pradesh in connivance with state government officials, and used it to legitimize iron ore mined illegally in Karnataka.

The Karnataka ore was brought to the site of the Andhra Pradesh mine, transported elsewhere and sold, the agency has alleged. The Reddys have denied wrongdoing.

The CBI is trying to find out the names of complicit government officials, the CBI lawyer said. Because the case involves thousands of crore, the agency needs to interrogate the accused for a total of at least 15 days, Ravindranath argued, pointing out that the court had granted the agency 15 days’ custody of the accused in the Satyam Computer Services Ltd fraud case.

Ravindranath drew the court’s attention to the seizure this month of 5 crore by the police along Andhra Pradesh-Karnataka border, where a truck transporting the money purportedly belonging to Srinivas Reddy was confiscated.

The defence countered CBI’s plea for custody. Citing a Supreme Court judgement, lawyer J Prabhakar, appearing for Janardhan Reddy, contended police custody cannot be sought beyond 15 days of a suspect’s arrest.

Arguing against the bail petitions filed by the Reddys, the CBI said the two men had admitted that they were “highly placed persons in society and politics," adding that they could tamper with evidence and influence witnesses if let out on bail. Witnesses have been appearing before the CBI and submitting evidence, the agency’s lawyer said.

If bail is granted to the suspects, witnesses may not come forward to depose, Ravindranath said.

Both Janardhan Reddy and Srinivas Reddy are ready to surrender their passports, their lawyers said. Should there be evidence of them tampering with evidence or trying to influence the witnesses, the court could cancel bail, they contended.