The Supreme Court on Friday said it will look into the plea for CBI probe into Gujarat’s snooping controversy only after verifying that suspended IAS officer Pradeep Sharma complied with its order to delete “scurrilous” allegations against Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Mr. Sharma, who has sought probe into the snoopgate, faced stiff opposition from the Gujarat government, which also slapped several other cases on him including one for attempting to flee the country on fake passport.
The apex court, which also refused Mr. Sharma’s plea to allow him to travel to the United States to meet his wife and son, who are American citizens, said his application for CBI probe into snoopgate can only be considered after examining that he has complied with its May 12, 2011 order.
Mr. Sharma, the 1984 batch IAS officer, who had sought handing over of the probe of criminal cases against him to the CBI and shifting the trial outside Gujarat, was directed by the apex court to file an amended petition by deleting the paragraphs having “scurrilous” allegations against Mr. Modi.
Since the amended petition was not available during the hearing, a bench comprising justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and M.B. Lokur said “there was a need to compare the original petition and the amended one”.
“Let us see whether you have first complied with our order or not. We want to go through the amended petition,” the bench said, adding there was a need to compare the petitions as Gujarat government and Mr. Modi’s close aide and senior BJP leader Amit Shah alleged that Sharma has retained the scurrilous allegations in the application for CBI probe.
“If that is so we will compare the paragraphs. We have to see that the order has to be followed. If the order has been complied with we will go into it, otherwise we will not entertain it,” the bench said while posting the plea on snoopgate after two weeks.
Mr. Sharma’s counsel Prashant Bhushan contended that gist of the allegation against Mr. Modi was necessary in the application to show the alleged malafide by Gujarat government which has foisted false cases against the suspended IAS officer and his brother Kuldeep Sharma, a senior IPS officer who refused to lodge cases against dancer Mallika Sarabhai.
However, his submission was opposed by Shah’s counsel Mahesh Jethmalani saying there was complete non-compliance of the May 12, 2011 order by Mr. Sharma, who was directed not to retain allegations made in 10 paragraphs of the original petition.
While rejecting Mr. Sharma’s plea for permission to travel, the bench took into account its earlier order by which several restrictions were imposed on him while he was granted bail.
“We are not inclined to allow his plea (to travel to the US). The application is rejected,” the bench said while referring to the conditions imposed on him.
Gujarat’s Additional Advocate General Tushar Mehta opposed Sharma’s plea for travelling abroad by referring before the bench to some other cases including the one of 2007 in which he was absconding and later traced in New Delhi in a guest house where he was staying on a fake identity.
He said Mr. Sharma was allegedly having a driving licence with his photograph but with a different name and the scrutiny of his laptop disclosed that he was trying to flee from the country.
Referring to the apex court order, Mr. Mehta said, “the court said till police complete probe in cases he will not leave the country and his passport would not be returned till the disposal of five cases against him.”
Taking note of the Gujarat government’s submission, the bench said, “it appears difficult to grant this prayer“.
“I have been party to that order,” Justice Desai said while adding that “with the background of the case it is little difficult to allow him to travel abroad“.
Mr. Sharma had in 2011 filed the petition for handing over the cases against him to CBI and in November 2013, he took the controversy over the snoopgate to the apex court.