Legal Correspondent

How does State come into picture when CBI investigated case, asks CJI

State entitled to file appeal under Code of Criminal Procedure : Harish Salve

Hear petitions filed by both Lalu Prasad and

CBI: Vahanvati

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Bihar government on a petition filed by Railway Minister Lalu Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi challenging a Patna High Court order admitting the State’s appeal against their acquittal in a disproportionate assets case.

Earlier, Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, who was on a three-judge Bench, asked Harish Salve, senior counsel for the Bihar Government: “How has the State government come into the picture when the case was investigated and prosecuted by the CBI. The State has no role to play in the case. Only the CBI, being the prosecutor, can file an appeal.”

Mr. Salve said the State was entitled to file the appeal under the Code of Criminal Procedure when the CBI failed to do so.

Solicitor-General G.E. Vahanvati, appearing for the CBI which also filed an appeal against the High Court order, said the agency had investigated the case on the court’s direction. Now that the High Court had decided that the government’s appeal was maintainable, this court could hear the petitions filed by both Mr. Prasad and the CBI.

Senior counsel Ram Jethmalani, appearing for the petitioners, wanted the court to hear the matter on a priority basis as important questions were of law were involved.

On December 18, 2006, special CBI judge Muni Lal Paswan acquitted Mr. Prasad and his wife in the corruption case in which it was alleged that they amassed assets worth Rs. 46 lakh beyond the known sources of their income when Mr. Prasad was Chief Minister between 1990 and 1997. The High Court held that the appeal preferred by the State was maintainable.

Questions of law

In their SLP, Mr. Prasad and his wife raised questions whether the fundamental rights and liberty of the acquitted persons could be made vulnerable to the capricious will of the State government to override the Centre’s decision not to file an appeal; and whether the High Court failed to appreciate that the State’s appeal was not bona fide and was vitiated by political motivations and hence was not maintainable.

Justices R.V. Raveendran and M.K. Sharma were the other judges on the Bench.