Special court to hear coal scam cases: SC

The Supreme Court has decided to set up a special court to try cases arising from the coal block allocation scam. File photo  

The Supreme Court on Monday decided to set up a special court to try cases arising from the coal block allocation scam and also appoint a special public prosecutor to lead the cases there.

A bench of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph also asked the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court to name a judge to preside over this special court by July 25, the next date of hearing.

The petitioners, NGO Common Cause, and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) were on the same page on the name of senior counsel Gopal Subramanium as the special public prosecutor.

Mr. Subramanium’s name also found favour with the court which felt when a person of his stature points to gaps or loopholes or a certain conclusion requiring further investigation, it would carry weight with the special court and would be given due consideration.

As the apex court also asked Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar to suggest names, he said he would discuss the matter with Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi and get back to the court. However, he said there should be consent on the nominee before the appointment was made.

The court said the special court would hear all the matters relating to coal block allocation scam involving the Prevention of Corruption Act, Prevention of Money Laundering Act, and all other matters whether filed by the CBI or the Enforcement Directorate.

The CBI, which had suggested the setting up of a special court in the last date of hearing, resisted the move that the prosecutor would scrutinise the entire material it had collected in course of investigation to determine soundness of the decision either to close or launch prosecution in the case.

Appearing for CBI, senior counsel Amrendra Saran told the court that the special prosecutor could give his opinion either on the closure report or on the filing of the charge sheet to the special court but he could not do so as long the matter was within the agency and the final decision had not been arrived at.

“He can’t act as a super cop. It will be total distortion of the law as it exists today,” Mr. Saran said, resisting the suggestions both by the court and Prashant Bhushan of Common Cause that before a closure report or charge sheet was filed, the prosecutor should be allowed to scrutinise the entire material that was relied upon before the CBI took a decision either way.

Referring to the CBI manual, Chief Justice Lodha noted that CBI’s chief public prosecutor scrutinises the entire material before the charge sheet is filed and said this implies that this exercise is also undertaken when the closure report is filed.

He asked what difference it would make if the exercise undertaken by the CBI official was carried out by the special prosecutor appointed by the apex court.

The court was not pleased with the CBI’s resistance, noting that the investigating agency on an earlier occasion had resisted the move to appoint amicus curiae to assist the court or set up Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate the scam.

“SPP is not a mouthpiece of CBI. He has to look (at the material) objectively. In law what difference does it make if material is examined by CPP or SPP? You can’t restrict the scrutiny of the material,” said Chief Justice Lodha.

But Mr. Saran did not concede ground, maintaining that the special prosecutor would give his opinion on the CBI report only to the special court and not to the agency.

Meanwhile, the court on Friday issued notice to seven private and public sector companies on central government’s plea seeking transfer, to apex court of all cases, challenging the cancellation of coal blocks allocated to them, pending before various high courts.

A bench of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman issued notice on Attorney General Rohatagi’s urging.

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Printable version | Sep 16, 2021 10:20:35 PM |

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