Former prime minister P. V. Narasimha Rao was exempted from appearing in court yesterday to face corruption charges because of fears for his safety. A two-judge Supreme Court panel ruled Rao was exempt from appearing in a lower court until a decision is taken next Monday on whether his hearing will be shifted to a more secure venue. New Delhi's police chief, Nikhil Kumar, told the bench his officers could not guarantee Rao's security if he appeared at the Tis Hazari court complex. Rao figures on the hit list of several Sikh, Tamil and Kashmiri militant groups and enjoys special security cover. The former premier has denied accusations of trying to defraud an expat Indian businessman of US$100,000 (HK$772,600) during a business deal in 1983. A co-accused in the case, Godman Chandraswami, has been detained in Tihar jail since May. Rao resigned as president of the Congress (I) Party after he was summoned on September 21 to appear before the Tis Hazari court to face charges relating to the case. Mr Kumar urged the judges to shift the venue from the congested Tis Hazari complex to the Patiala House court or to the Pragati Maidan fairground, where adequate security measures could be taken. The Supreme Court said Rao's counsel R. K. Anand could appear for his client until the question of an adequate venue for the hearing had been decided. Tis Hazari special judge Ajit Bharihoka later adjourned the hearing until October 9.