Legal Correspondent

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation has challenged in the Supreme Court an interim order of the Patna High Court, which allowed the Bihar government to appeal against the acquittal of Railway Minister Lalu Prasad and his wife, Rabri Devi, in a disproportionate assets case.

Special CBI judge Muni Lal Paswan on December 18, 2006, acquitted the two in the 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.

As the CBI, prosecuting agency, did not file an appeal, the government moved the High Court challenging the acquittal.

Appeal maintainable

The High Court held that the government’s appeal was maintainable and said it would proceed with the hearing.

Trial court’s order

Assailing the High Court order, the CBI, in its special leave petition, said the State government was not competent to file an appeal against the trial court’s order as it was its exclusive jurisdiction to prefer an appeal or not.

No State government could impede, oppose or frustrate the Centre’s executive decision under Section 378 of the Criminal Procedure Code not to file an appeal against an order of acquittal.

Questions of law

The CBI raised important questions of law: whether the State government was competent to file an appeal in a matter investigated by the CBI; whether Section 378 (2) of the Cr.PC gave the Centre exclusive power to file appeals in cases investigated by the Delhi Special Police Establishment, constituted under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946; and whether the State government’s power to file appeals was limited to cases other than those referred to in Section 378 (2) Cr.PC.

Mr. Prasad and his wife have already challenged the High Court order.