While the grand celebrations for Telangana Formation Day were kick-started by chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao, a development in the liquor scam case against Bharat Rashtra Samithi MLC K Kavitha cast a shadow on the event. One of the accused in the case, Sarath Chandra Reddy, has been granted permission to become an approver. Reddy, who is the non-executive director of Aurobindo Pharma, was arrested by ED last November. He is allegedly part of the ‘South Group’ cartel that bribed Aam Aadmi Party government officials to gain control over the wholesale liquor business in Delhi. With Reddy turning an approver, the ED might find it easier to stitch together a case against Kavitha, the daughter of the Telangana CM.
Kavitha is one of the many politicians accused in the case. It has been alleged that Delhi’s excise policy for 2021-22 favoured certain dealers and allowed cartelisation. The dealers had allegedly paid bribes of Rs 100 crore to the politicians to gain a favourable foothold in the trade.
Speaking about the implications of the development, lawyer and former convenor of BJP Legal Cell, Karunasagar Kashimshetty, said: “This will certainly help the agency to go about the case in a more effective manner. There are loopholes in the investigation due to the non-cooperation of Kavitha. Whenever she was summoned for questioning, she used to evade it by giving lame excuses. Since she belongs to an influential family, it is difficult for the CBI or ED to secure access to influential data. An approver can help the agency to do a deep dive into the case.”
Since Reddy is known to be a close associate of Kavitha, he may help in clinching crucial electronic and physical evidence in the case, added Kashimshetty. “It might also throw up new names. By turning an approver, Reddy can get a pardon under section 306 of CrPC. He might receive a lighter sentence too. Evidence produced by him is permissible in a court of law. It depends upon the extent of his cooperation in the investigation. However, there is no definition of ‘approver’ in the CrPC,” he added.
Kavitha was summoned by the Enforcement Directorate for questioning in relation to the case in March. This happened after the ED arrested Hyderabad-based businessman Arun Ramachandran Pillai, who is believed to have represented Kavitha’s interests. In February, chartered accountant Butchibabu Gorantla was arrested for his alleged role in the formulation of the policy. He is said to be a former aide of Kavitha.
The BRS leader has maintained that the case is a criminal conspiracy against her by the Narendra Modi government. She said that the BJP was using the ED to gain “backdoor entry” into Telangana. She had also approached the Supreme Court challenging the ED summons but her plea was rejected.