The Andhra Pradesh government on Thursday formally launched an inquiry into the treason charges against DGP rank IPS officer AB Venkateswara Rao, over a year after he was suspended, following an interim direction of the Supreme Court to complete the departmental inquiry by the end of April.
Venkateswara Rao, who served as DG (Intelligence) during former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu's tenure, appeared before the Commissioner of Inquiries RP Sisodia, the Inquiring Authority, in the Secretariat and presented his case.
The YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government had on February 8 last year placed Venkateswara Rao, an IPS officer of the 1989 batch, under suspension for "endangering national security through his acts of treason" when he was state intelligence chief during the previous Chandrababu Naidu regime.
The government alleged "serious misconduct" (on part of Venkateswara Rao) in the process of procurement of security equipment.
"Rao wilfully disclosed intelligence protocols and procedures of police to a foreign defence manufacturing firm. This is a direct threat to national security as Intelligence protocols are standard throughout the Indian Police Force," the government alleged.
"Based on facts uncovered via investigation, prima facie evidence is established on the grave misconduct and irregularities, which were wilfully committed by the accused officer resulting out of a conscious and premeditated act of treason towards the state and the nation," it said.
The government also charged Rao with colluding with one RT Inflatables Private Limited, an Israeli defence equipment manufacturer, to illegally award critical intelligence and surveillance contract to his son Chetan Sai Krishna, who was CEO of Akasam Advanced Systems Pvt Ltd (primary bidder on behalf of RT Inflatables Pvt.Ltd).
After Jagan became the Chief Minister on May 30, 2019, Rao was removed as the Director General of Anti-Corruption Bureau and kept waiting for several months before he was eventually suspended from service.
The Central Administrative Tribunal upheld his suspension but the AP High Court struck it down in May last year. The state government then moved the Supreme Court.
On December 18 last year, the government framed charges against the officer to avoid the courtâ€™s wrath. On March 8, the government hurriedly appointed the Commissioner of Inquiries as the Inquiring Authority, a day before the Supreme Court was to hear the petition.
The apex court, on March 9, directed the state to complete the inquiry "expeditiously and not later than the end of April, 2021."
The court also directed that the inquiry is conducted on a day-to-day basis and a compliance report submitted before the next date of hearing (May 3).
Accordingly, Sisodia began the proceedings on Thursday and Venkateswara Rao appeared before him.
Though the IPS officer wanted the proceedings recorded by the electronic media, the plea was rejected as the Commissioner of Inquiries was a quasi-judicial authority.
Several former Directors General of Police (Head of Police Force) have been listed as witnesses in the case and are expected to depose before the Inquiring Authority.
Official sources said Venkateswara Rao submitted a lot of material evidence in his defence, particularly that relating to the proposed purchase of security equipment. The inquiry would continue further from March 22, the sources added.