Supreme Court revokes Andhra IPS officer IPS officer A.B. Venkateswara Rao suspension

More than two years after senior IPS officer A.B. Venkateswara Rao was suspended by the Andhra Pradesh government for alleged irregularities in the procurement of surveillance equipment, the Supreme Court on Friday revoked his suspension.

The apex court dismissed the Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by the state government challenging the Andhra Pradesh High Court's order which had set aside the suspension of the former intelligence chief.

The Supreme Court made it clear that the suspension could be for a maximum of two years as per the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Amendments Rules, 2015. It said since the two year period was over, the suspension could no longer be in place.

In February 2020, the state government had placed Venkateswara Rao, an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of 1989 batch, under suspension for his alleged misconduct and irregularities in purchase of security equipment from an Israeli firm.

The officer was working as Additional Director General of Police (Intelligence) during the previous government of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).

Considered close to then Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, Rao was removed as the intelligence chief after Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy assumed office in May 2019. He was waiting for a posting when he was suspended.

The police officer had approached Andhra Pradesh High Court, which had set aside the suspension on May 22, 2020.

After the Supreme Court upheld the High Court order, Rao spoke to media persons in Delhi. "To make which psycho happy and for the pleasure of which sadist, I was suspended and all this was done to me," he asked.

Rao said while he used the legal recourse to challenge the suspension, the government spent a huge amount of money to fight the case. He said the government paid Rs 20 lakh as fee to senior counsel Prakash Reddy when he challenged the suspension in the Central Administrative Tribunal. "Subsequently, the case went to the High Court. I don't know how much was paid for the case in the High Court. In the Supreme Court a team of lawyers was hired. I don't know how many crores were spent on this," he said and demanded that the government pay him for the legal expenses at par with the money it spent on fighting the case.

He recalled that he was suspended on the basis of a forgery memo given by a DGP and a wrong report given by a ADG CID. He said the higher-ups and the Chief Secretary, without going through the report, signed the suspension order within 24 hours.

Last month the state government had issued show cause notice to Rao for speaking to media on Pegasus row without prior permission of the government.

Venkateswara Rao had addressed a press conference after Assembly Speaker Tammineni Sitaram announced that a House Committee will be constituted to probe the Pegasus issue.

The House Committee announcement came on the demand by members of ruling YSRCP who wanted a thorough probe in the light of reported claim by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that the TDP government headed by Chandrababu Naidu had purchased spyware from Pegasus.

Rao told a news conference that neither the intelligence wing nor any other government department had procured or used the Pegasus spyware till April 2019.

Rao said all allegations leveled against him regarding the procurement by the intelligence department and charges of treason against him were far from the truth. "I have worked for 30 years in the service of the nation. Allegations have been made that I resorted to treason and shared secrets with other countries. None of the allegations made against me was made part of the charge memo issued against me," he had said.

He also wrote a letter to the state government seeking permission to file defamation case against MLA Chevireddy Bhaskara Reddy, chief public relations officer in the chief minister's office and others for making baseless allegations against him causing damage to his image.

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