Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of R Banumathi, AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, JJ has granted bail to former Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram in connection with the INX Media case registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Chidambaram is currently in the custody of Enforcement Directorate (ED) till October 24 in the INX Media money laundering case. Chidambaram, who is currently in judicial custody in Tihar jail, had filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the apex court days after the High Court dismissed his bail plea contending that he might influence the witnesses in the case.

When the Solicitor General  Tushar Mehta submitted before the Court that “flight risk” of economic offenders should be looked at as a national phenomenon and be dealt with in that manner merely because certain other offenders have flown out of the country, the Court said that the same cannot, be put in a straight-jacket formula so as to deny bail to the one who is before the Court, due to the conduct of other offenders, if the person under consideration is otherwise entitled to bail on the merits of his own case. Hence, such consideration including as to “flight risk” is to be made on individual basis being uninfluenced by the unconnected cases, more so, when the personal liberty is involved.

The Court noticed that Chidambaram was neither a “flight risk” nor there was possibility of his abscondence and said that Chidambaram

“being the Member of Parliament and a Senior Member of the Bar has strong roots in society and his passport having been surrendered and “look out notice” issued against him, there is no likelihood of his fleeing away from the country or his abscondence from the trial.”

On the allegation of possibility of influencing the witnesses, the Court noticed,

“Till the date, there has been no allegation regarding influencing of any witness by the appellant or his men directly or indirectly. In the number of remand applications, there was no whisper that any material witness has been approached not to disclose information about the appellant and his son. It appears that only at the time of opposing the bail and in the counter affidavit filed by the CBI before the High Court, the averments were made.”

The Court observed that CBI has no direct evidence against Chidambaram regarding the allegation of appellant directly or indirectly influencing the witnesses. It further noticed that the conclusion of the learned Single Judge of Delhi High Court “…that it cannot be ruled out that the petitioner will not influence the witnesses directly or indirectly……” is not substantiated by any materials and is only a generalised apprehension and appears to be speculative. It, hence, held,

“Mere averments that the appellant approached the witnesses and the assertion that the appellant would further pressurize the witnesses, without any material basis cannot be the reason to deny regular bail to the appellant; more so, when the appellant has been in custody for nearly two months, co-operated with the investigating agency and the charge sheet is also filed.”

Setting aside the Delhi High Court judgment, the Court, hence, directed that Chidambaram be released on bail if not required in another case subject to the condition of his executing bail bonds for a sum of Rs.1,00,000/- with two sureties of like sum to the satisfaction of the Special CBI Judge. The Court further directed,

“The passport if already not deposited, shall be deposited with the Special Court and Chidambaram shall not leave the country without leave of the Special Court and subject to the order that may be passed by the Special Judge from time to time. He shall make himself available for interrogation as and when required.”

[P. Chidambaram v. Central Bureau of Investigation, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1380, decided on 22.10.2019\

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Supreme Court: Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Thursday moved the Supreme Court against the order of the Delhi High Court that dismissed his bail plea in the INX Media case. Chidambaram, who is currently in judicial custody in Tihar jail, filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) before the Supreme Court earlier today, days after the High Court dismissed his bail plea contending that he might influence the witnesses in the case.

Refuting the contentions put forth by the high court, Chidambaram asserted that he has not influenced any witness or accused in the case.

“A mere apprehension without there being substantial evidence and particulars of an accused approaching any witness is not enough to deny bail to an accused,”

Alluding to certain inputs submitted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to the court in a sealed cover, the petition stated,

“The liberty has thus been denied on the basis of the baseless, anonymous and unverified allegation made behind the petitioner’s back.”

Chidambaram said that the submissions made by the agency in the sealed cover were “highly objectionable and against all canons of fair play and justice”. The petition also stated that the FIR registered in 2015, did not name Chidambaram. The plea asserted that there was no reference or allegation against him in the FIR.

Chidambaram is facing probe for alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance given to INX Media to the tune of Rs 305 crore in 2007 when he was the Union finance minister. While the CBI is probing the corruption allegations, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is looking into money laundering allegations against him in the case. The CBI had arrested Chidambaram on August 21 following which he was sent to judicial custody, which is slated to end today.

(Source: ANI)

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Suresh Kumar Kait, J. allowed a criminal petition filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation seeking to set aside the order passed by the Special Judge (PC Act), insofar as it directed CBI to produce the Final Report.

Nikhil Goel, Special Public Prosecutor with Naveen Goel, Dushyant Sarna and Piyo Harold, Advocates, represented CBI. It was submitted the Final Report could only be summoned under special circumstances.

The High Court perused the impugned order and noted that it was clearly mentioned therein that as per the mandate of Section 172 CrPC, the custody of the diaries has to be with the Investigation Officer. It was clearly mentioned that under exceptional circumstances, Final Report can be summoned by the Court for its exclusive perusal if necessary, but not as a routine.

It was noted that the Special Judge, though summoned the Final Report, did not disclose as to what were the exceptional circumstances under which the Final Report was summoned.

In such view of the matter, without going into the controversy further, the High Court set aside the impugned order to the extant of summoning of the Final Report. The case was remanded back to the Special Judge to pass order afresh by giving reasons as to what are the exceptional circumstances due to which the Final Report was required.[CBI v. Vallalore Rangaswamy Natarajan, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 10197, decided on 20-09-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a major blow to Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, the Court has rejected his plea against the Delhi High Court order rejecting his anticipatory bail plea in the INX Media case being probed by Enforcement Directorate (ED). The bench of R Banumathi and AR Bopanna, JJ said,

“In a case of money-laundering where it involves many stages of “placement”, “layering i.e. funds moved to other institutions to conceal origin” and “interrogation i.e. funds used to acquire various assets”, it requires systematic and analysed investigation which would be of great advantage.”

The Court was hearing Chidambaram’s plea against the Delhi High Court order rejecting his anticipatory bail plea in the INX Media case involving alleged irregularities in Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance given to the INX Media for receiving foreign investment to the tune of Rs.305 crores against approved inflow of Rs.4.62 crores.

Delhi High Court had denied the bail on 2 factors, namely, (i) gravity of the offence; and (ii) the appellant was “evasive” to deny the anticipatory bail. Taking strong exception against the said grounds, Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, argued that,

  • the “gravity of the offence” cannot be the perception of the individual or the court and the test for “gravity of the offence” should be the punishment prescribed by the statute for the offence committed.
  • Insofar as the finding of the High Court that “the appellant was evasive to the questions”, the investigating agency Enforcement Directorate cannot expect an accused to give answers in the manner they want and that the accused is entitled to protection under Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India.

The Court, however, noticed that ordinarily, arrest is a part of the process of the investigation intended to secure several purposes. There may be circumstances in which the accused may provide information leading to discovery of material facts and relevant information. Grant of anticipatory bail may hamper the investigation.

“Pre-arrest bail is to strike a balance between the individual’s right to personal freedom and the right of the investigating agency to interrogate the accused as to the material so far collected and to collect more information which may lead to recovery of relevant information.”

Stating that Section 438 Cr.P.C. is to be invoked only in exceptional cases where the case alleged is frivolous or groundless, the Court noticed that in the case in hand, there are allegations of laundering the proceeds of the crime and that the Enforcement Directorate claims to have certain specific inputs from various sources, including overseas banks. It, hence, held that grant of anticipatory bail, particularly in economic offences would definitely hamper the effective investigation.

“Having regard to the materials said to have been collected by the respondent-Enforcement Directorate and considering the stage of the investigation, we are of the view that it is not a fit case to grant anticipatory bail.”

The Court, however, clarified that

“As and when the application for regular bail is filed, the same shall be considered by the learned trial court on its own merits and in accordance with law without being influenced by any of the observations made in this judgment and the impugned order of the High Court.”

Meanwhile, the CBI special court has sent former union minister P. Chidambaram to judicial custody till 19 September in the money-laundering and corruption case related to the INX Media scam.

[P. Chidambaram v. Directorate of Enforcement, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1143, decided on 05.09.2019]

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Supreme Court: The Enforcement Directorate has told the Court that custodial interrogation of senior Congress leader P Chidambaram in the INX media case is required as if his plea for anticipatory bail is given it would affect cases involving Vijay Mallya, Mehul Choksi, Neerav Modi and Zakir Naik.

Disputing the contention of Chidambaram’s lawyers, the agency also argued that the offence of money laundering is against the society, nation and the economy. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the probe agency told a Bench of Justice R Banumathi and Justice AS Bopanna,

“Money laundering is an offence against society, nation and economy. Economic offences are gravest offences irrespective of quantum of sentence,”

Countering the arguments of Chidambaram’s advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi that Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) offences with seven years of punishment is not a grave offence because as per the Code of Criminal Procedure grave offences entail death penalty and life, Mehta said money laundering offences are “grave”. He said,

“Chidambaram’s counsels have argued that gravity of an offence is subjective. PMLA offences may not be grave for them but the Courts have consistently held that economic offences are grave in nature. Gravity is a relative concept. Quantum of punishment is not relevant. What’s important is what will be the impact of your offence in society. Money laundering is an offence against the society, nation and economy. Economic offences are gravest offences irrespective of quantum of sentence,”

The Court was hearing Chidambaram’s plea against Delhi High Court’s order denying anticipatory bail to him in a case being probed by the ED.

SG also objected to the proposition made by Chidambaram’s counsel Kapil Sibal to confront him with evidence before presenting it in the court, saying it is “absurd” and would have “devastating results” and is “preposterous”. He added,

“Whether the accused’s reply was evasive or not is decided by investigating agency and not by the court”

SG also contended that if accused at large is confronted with the evidence collected, then the agency will have exposed its evidence and witnesses and it will give a chance to the accused to tamper with evidence and erase the money trail.

“The investigating agency has absolute discretion to what extent to reveal the evidence to the accused. It is best to confront the accused with evidence when he is in custody,”

He further said that investigation is an art where the agency brings the accused to divulge details and not a mere question and answer format or an interview. He also argued that if given an anticipatory bail, Chidambaram may erase the money trail, influence the witnesses and tamper with evidence.

“It’s impossible to investigate when he’s armed with anticipatory bail. It’s ED’s right and duty to unearth the truth. It would be difficult for the ED to catch him if he is under a protective umbrella and best way to elicit truth is when an accused is not under a protective umbrella,”

In 2017, the Central Bureau of Investigation  had registered an FIR alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance was given to INX Media to the tune of Rs 305 crore in 2007 when Chidambaram was the Union finance minister.

Following the FIR filed by CBI, ED had filed a case of money laundering against him.

(Source: ANI)

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Supreme Court: The bench of R Banumathi and A S Bopanna, JJ has extended till tomorrow the interim protection from arrest granted to senior Congress leader P Chidambaram in a money laundering case filed by the Enforcement Directorate in the alleged INX media scam.

The Court was hearing a Special Leave Petition (SLP) moved by Chidambaram against the Delhi High Court order denying him anticipatory bail in the ED case. The hearing in the case will continue tomorrow.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta is likely to make submissions on the application filed by the Kapil Sibal, counsel of Chidambaram, seeking a direction to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to produce his client’s statement recorded by them in the case.

A Special court had yesterday extended the CBI remand of the Congress leader by four days in a corruption case filed by the CBI in INX media scam. The agency had sought an extension contending that they have to “unravel the larger conspiracy”.

In 2017, the CBI had registered an FIR alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance given to INX Media to the tune of Rs 305 crore in 2007 when Chidambaram was the Union finance minister. Following the FIR filed by CBI, ED had filed a case of money laundering against him.

(Source: ANI)

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Supreme Court:  The bench of R Banumathi and A S Bopanna, JJ has extended the protection from arrest given to former finance minister P Chidambaram in the INX Media money laundering case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate till Tuesday. The bench also dismissed the petition filed by senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram for anticipatory bail in the corruption case lodged by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), saying the plea has become “infructuous” as he had already been arrested.

The bench will continue hearing on Tuesday the petition of Chidambaram challenging the Delhi High Court order which had rejected his anticipatory bail plea in the money laundering case.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chidambaram completed his arguments and said he will file the rejoinder to the ED’s counter affidavit.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for ED, said he will advance his arguments Tuesday and the bench posted the matter for hearing at noon tomorrow.

During the pre-lunch session, Sibal said that fair trial and fair investigation were part of Article 21 and the court must protect the fundamental right of liberty of Chidambaram. He strongly objected to Mehta’s argument to place on record certain documents in sealed cover for the perusal of the bench.

He said that Chidambaram was examined thrice by the ED — on December 19, 2018, January 1, 2019 and January 21, 2019 — but the questions related to the allegations levelled by the ED against him were not put to him.

The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to the INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram’s tenure as the finance minister.

Thereafter, the ED lodged a money laundering case against him in 2017.

Sibal said FIPB consisted of six secretaries of the government, and Chidambaram had only signed the approval as the then finance minister. He further argued,

“The ED has alleged the use of shell companies in the matter but no such firm is directly or indirectly connected to Chidambaram,”

He also said that Chidambaram was not named in the ED’s FIR and no allegations were levelled against him.

Chidambaram, 73, headed the ministries of finance and home during the UPA regime.

(Source: India Today)

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As reported by media, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a new case against NDTV Channel founders Prannoy and Radhika Roy and former channel CEO Vikram Chandra.

According to the FIR registered, it has been stated that “money raised by the TV channel between 2004 and 2010 was done with the “object of bringing tainted money of unknown public servants through a web of complex transactions”.

It is alleged that during May 2004 to May 2010, NDTV floated around 32 subsidiary firms all over the world, mostly in the tax havens of Holland, the United Kingdom, Dubai, Malaysia, Mauritius, etc.

As reported by News Nation, “Proceeds of corruption of unknown public servants was invested through NDTV Ltd.”

[Source: The Wire]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench of Ramesh Ranganathan, CJ and R.C. Khulbe, J. refused to entertain a writ petition which sought, certiorari, to call for the records of the selection process, to include the name of petitioner in OBC category, to direct CBI to investigate into the matter and to eventually quash the said result of Uttarakhand Judicial Services Examination, 2016.

Petitioner contended that Uttarakhand Public Service Commission, advertised for the post of Civil Judge (Junior Division) in 2017, a total number of 2 posts were reserved for OBC candidates. The petitioner further alleged that he secured same marks as of the last selected candidate but was declared unsuccessful in the preliminary exam, hence he challenged the procedure and was allowed provisionally by the Court to write Mains exam. Eventually, he cleared Mains and was called for the interview where he secured 31 marks and the selected respondent was given 32 marks. The petitioner herein alleged ‘nepotism’ in the selection process and collusion between one of the candidates and a member from the Selection Panel. Hence, he doubted the Selection Process as it was unfair and foul play was there. Hence, demanded a probe into the matter by CBI.

The learned counsel for the petitioner Ajay Pundir, submitted that respondent-Commission had granted lesser marks deliberately and acted in a malafide manner. The impugned action of the respondents was alleged violation of Articles 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution of India; and rejection of petitioner’s candidature was malafide and illegal. It was again submitted that respondent-Interviewer was near relative of the respondent-selected candidate, and therefore, should not have been a Member of the Interview Board.

The learned counsel for the Commission, B.D. Kandpal, replied to the allegations that, 30% of the seats were reserved for Women, and the benefit of such reservation extended category-wise; since there were two posts reserved in favor of OBC category, 30% of two posts comes to 0.6 and, therefore, one post was reserved in favour of OBC Women against which the accused respondent-candidate was selected and the other candidate who was selected secured 60 marks. Hence, the two posts for OBC were satisfied in that manner. Addressing the issue of rejection in the preliminary examination, the counsel submitted that, petitioner obtained 146 marks in the preliminary examination, whereas the last selected candidate had scored 146.75 marks and he was, therefore, held not to have qualified by the Commission. In reply of the alleged ‘nepotism’ remark the counsel stated that, evaluation was done accordingly; there was no interference of any member or officials of the Commission in that process; after its receipt from the examiner, the marks were tabulated for preparing a merit list and, thereafter, results were declared merit-wise and category-wise; before the results were finalized. The petitioner’s objections were considered before the results were declared; however, in view of the interim order passed in an earlier writ, the petitioner was provisionally allowed to participate in the main examination and, since he qualified therein, he was called for interview.

The Interview Board contended that, marks in the interview were awarded by the Interview Board after judging the personality, intelligence, etc., of the candidate. The Panel had honorable personalities and expert in the subjects who awarded marks to the petitioner.

The respondent-Interviewer, contended that he was not a member in the Board but a mere observer according to the policy, as he was newly appointed member hence, was invited to watch and observe the proceedings of the Interview Boards, and the Departmental Promotion Committees, to enable him to undertake the same process independently in future.

The Court after contemplating the matter observed that, petitioner’s self-serving claim of exceptional merit cannot be examined in judicial review proceedings under Article 226, the Court was not justified in sitting in judgment over the decision of the Interview Board in selecting a particular candidate. It cannot arrogate to itself the power to judge the comparative merit of candidates, and consider their fitness and suitability for appointment.

The Court further noted the allegation of malafides by the petitioner against respondent-Interviewer required a very high proof as he was a mere spectator and not a member of the Board, also no malice is attributed to the Interview Board, nor any contention been put forth regarding its constitution, or the manner in which the process of interview was conducted, thus, Court not to sit in judgment over the decision of the Interview Board regarding allotment of marks, to each candidate, in the interview, hence, the petition was thereby dismissed.

The petitioner called for a probe by CBI, to which the Court stated, “The prayer sought for in the writ petition, that an investigation be caused into the matter by the Central Bureau of Investigation, is far fetched and deserves rejection. The High Court has the power, under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, to direct investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which power must be exercised sparingly.”[Nirmal Singh v. High Court of Uttarakhand, WP (S/B) No. 111 of 2018, decided on 21-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Vibhu Bhakru, J., set aside an order whereby the petitioner’s passport was impounded and gave him liberty to travel abroad subject to compliance with the conditions imposed.

The petitioner was facing criminal charges under Section 120-B read with Section 420 IPC along with Section 13(2) and 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. A charge-sheet was filed by the CBI and cognizance was taken by the Special Judge, after which the petitioner applied for regular bail. The bail was granted and the petitioner was called upon to surrender his passport to the Court concerned. Complying with the same, the petitioner deposited his passport with the Special Judge. Subsequently, he filed an application to travel abroad which was allowed subject to conditions imposed. Meanwhile, the Regional Passport Officer, vide the impugned order, impounded his passport under Section 10(3)(e) of the Passports Act, 1967. The petitioner preferred an appeal under Section 11 against the said order, however, it was dismissed by Chief Passport Officer. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner filed the present petition.

After discussing its earlier decision in Manish Kumar Mittal v. Chief Passport Officer, 2013 SCC OnLine Del 3007, the High Court was of the view that: in the given facts of the present case, impounding the passport is not warranted considering that the petitioner had already been called upon to deposit the same with the concerned Court. Further, the permission has already been granted  to the petitioner to travel overseas.” In such a view, the Court set aside the order whereby the petitioner’s passport was impounded. He was given liberty to travel abroad, subject to compliance with the conditions imposed.[Vinod Kumar Asthana v. Chief Passport Officer, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8138, dated 16-04-2019]

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Supreme Court: Justice L Nageswara Rao has recused himself from hearing the CBI’s plea alleging obstruction in its probe into the multi-crore Sarada chit fund scam probe by West Bengal authorities as he had appeared for the state as a lawyer.

The bench, which originally comprised of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, has now posted the matter for hearing on February 27 before an appropriate bench of which Justice Rao is not a part.

On February 18, West Bengal Chief secretary Malay Kumar De, DGP Virendera Kumar and Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar had filed separate affidavits in the apex court on the contempt petition moved by the CBI in connection with the scam and had tendered “unconditional and unambiguous apology”.

The Court had on February 5 directed them to file replies on the contempt pleas filed against them by the CBI.

A CBI team door-stepped Kolkata Police Chief, Rajeev Kumar on February 3, 2019 evening to question him on “missing evidence” in the Saradha and Rose Valley chit fund cases. Several members of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress have been arrested in the cases, which were probed by a Special Investigation Team led by Rajeev Kumar. This lead to a sit-in by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

(Source: PTI)

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Supreme Court: In the CBI versus Kolkata Police controversy, the Court has directed that no coercive steps, including arrest of  Rajeev Kumar, will take place during the course of investigation. The Court, however, directed Rajeev Kumar to make himself available before the CBI and “faithfully” cooperate with the agency in investigation of cases arising out of the Saradha chit fund scam probe.

A CBI team door-stepped Kolkata Police Chief, Rajeev Kumar on February 3, 2019 evening to question him on “missing evidence” in the Saradha and Rose Valley chit fund cases. Several members of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress have been arrested in the cases, which were probed by a Special Investigation Team led by Rajeev Kumar. This lead to a sit-in by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

The CBI went to the Supreme Court on Monday, after its team that arrived at Rajeev Kumar’s Kolkata home was blocked by the police, bundled into buses and detained for a few hours. It told the Court that Rajeev Kumar’s investigation “shielded guilty companies” and there was “inaction, selective action and a nexus” between the police and the accused companies. Also, the evidence handed over by the team is not complete and that it was was doctored.

(Source: NDTV)

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Supreme Court: After CJI Ranjan Gogoi recused himself from hearing a plea challenging the Centre’s decision to appoint M Nageswara Rao as interim CBI director on January 21, now Justice Dr. AK Sikri has recused himself from the matter.

Justice Sikri, who was part of the high powered panel which had removed CBI Director Alok Verma, told  senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for petitioner NGO Common Cause:

“You understand my position. I can’t hear this matter.”

The matter will now be taken up tomorrow i.e. on 25.01.2019 by a new bench.

(With inputs from PTI)

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Setting aside the Central Government and Central Vigilance Committee’s (CVC) October 23, 2018 order divesting CBI Director Alok Verma of his charge, the 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and SK Kaul and KM Joseph, JJ ordered reinstatement of Alok Verma with riders. The Court made it explicit that Alok Verma’s role as the Director, CBI during the interregnum and in terms of this order will be confined only to the exercise of the ongoing routine functions without any fresh initiative, having no major policy or institutional implications.

The Court said that the elaborate directions given by the Court in Vineet Narain v. Union of India, (1998) 1 SCC 226; the amendments made to the provisions of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 and the enactment of the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003 cannot be bypassed as the provisions and the judgement ensure the insulation of the CBI director from all external interference if the CBI has to live up to the role and expectations of the legislature and enjoy public confidence to the fullest measure. The Court said:

“the clear legislative intent in bringing the aforesaid provisions to the statute book are for the purpose of ensuring complete insulation of the office of the Director, CBI from all kinds   of   extraneous   influences,   as   may   be,   as   well   as   for upholding the integrity and independence of the institution of the CBI as a whole.”

Interpreting the words “transferred   except   with   the   previous   consent   of   the Committee” mentioned in Section 4B(2) of the DSPE Act, the Court said:

“If the word “transferred” has to be understood in its ordinary parlance and limited to a change from one post to another, as the word would normally convey and on that basis the requirement of “previous   consent   of   the   Committee” is understood to be only in such cases, i.e. purely of transfer, such an   interpretation   would   be   self­defeating   and   would   clearly negate the legislative intent.  In such an event it will be free for the State Authority to effectively disengage the Director, CBI from functioning by adopting various modes, known and unknown, which may not amount to transfer but would still have the same effect as a transfer from one post to another, namely, cessation of exercise of powers and functions of the earlier post.   This is clearly not what the legislature could have intended.”

The Court hence, set aside the 3 impugned orders in question and directed that the matter be considered by the Committee under Section 4A(1) of the DSPE Act, 1946 which may be so done at the earliest and, in any case, within a week from the date of this order. Till then reinstated CBI director Alok Verma will cease and desist from taking any major policy decisions.

The aforementioned impugned orders dated October 23, 2018 came after there arose a dispute between Alok Verma and the CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana who accused each other of corruption and the feud became public.[Alok Verma v. Union of India, WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO.1309 OF 2018, decided on 04.01.2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Rekha Palli, J. declined to exercise extraordinary jurisdiction under Section 482 CrPC against the order of the CBI Special Court (PC Act) whereby it had ordered further investigation against the petitioner.

The petitioner was Superintendent of Customs, Kolkata. He was alleged to be a middle-man who took bribe from Rajesh Sarda to be handed over to his superior. Investigations were made against him by the Central Bureau of Investigation under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. CBI had filed a closure report in the same before the Special Court which while considering the report directed the CBI to proceed with a further investigation under Section 173(8) CrPC. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner was before the High Court.

Shreya Bhatnagar, Advocate appearing for the petitioner relied on an earlier decision of the Court wherein cognizance was taken by the trial court against Rajesh Sarda was set aside as the CBI had already filed a closure report as was also the case herein. In light of that decision, it was contended that there was no reason why the petitioner should be made to face a prolonged trial. Rajdipa Behura, Special Public Prosecutor submitted reply on behalf of the CBI.

The High Court differentiated the decision mentioned above on that therein the trial court took cognizance of the matter without ordering further investigation which was not the right course. However, in petitioner’s case, the Special Court had categorically directed the CBI to carry out further investigation under Section 173(8). Furthermore, it was observed, “closure report is not binding on the learned trial court, and the court is in fact expected to apply its independent mind to the material on the record, merely because the CBI had made certain observations which partially support the petitioner, cannot be a ground to tinker with the directions for further investigation given by the learned trial court“. In light of such and other reasons, the Court found no reason to interfere with the impugned order and dismissed the petition. [N.K. Rai v. CBI, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 13200, dated 29-11-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of CJ Ranjan Gogoi and S.K. Kaul and K.M. Joseph, JJ. proceeded with the matter regarding CBI Director Alok Verma and his deputy Special Director Rakesh Asthana in the alleged corruption charges, pursuant to Supreme Court’s order in Alok Kumar Verma v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 2249 in which CVC was directed to file its enquiry report under the supervision of the retired judge of the Supreme Court of India, Justice A.K. Patnaik.

The Bench in the present matter on perusal of the CVC enquiry report stated that a copy of the same should be furnished to the petitioner i.e. Alok Verma in order to preserve and maintain the sanctity of the institution of the CBI and public confidence in the said institution.

Further, the report has been asked to be furnished to the office of Attorney General for India and learned Solicitor General of India representing CVC.

Learned Senior Counsel F.S. Nariman submitted on behalf of Alok Verma that he will be ready with the response to the report of CVC by 19-11-2018. The said response has to be submitted to Secretary-General of this Court on 19-11-2018.

The matter is further listed for consideration on 20-11-2018. [Alok Verma v. Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine SC 2454, Order dated 16-11-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Mridula Bhatkar, J. allowed a writ petition directed against the order of Special Judge (CBI) whereby he allowed prosecution’s application filed under Section 293 CrPC.

The prosecution had filed an application under the said Section for exhibiting the CFSL report without examining the forensic expert. The said application was opposed by the petitioners on the ground that they were challenging the veracity of the said report as well as the competence of the forensic expert, and therefore they requested that the expert shall be called as a witness for cross-examination. The Special Judge, however, allowed the aforesaid application of the prosecution. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioners filed the instant petition.

The High Court noted that the petitioners were facing trial under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The conversation relevant to the case was a disputed issue in the trial. The limited question before the Court was whether the said expert to be called as a court witness under Section 311 CrPC. The Court further noted that the trial court had exhibited the CFSL report to which the petitioners raised an objection and wanted to test the truthfulness and veracity of the exhibited document. According to the Court, in all terminology and considering the position of the law, it was necessary for the trial court to call the forensic expert as a court witness under Section 311 enabling both the parties to cross-examine the witness. In such view of the matter, the petition was allowed. [Navin Laxman Tamboli v. State of Maharashtra,2018 SCC OnLine Bom 4325, dated 31-10-2018]

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Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Single Judge Bench of Sanjay Karol J., dismissed the criminal revision petition to acquit the accused of the offences under Sections 420, 467, 468 and 471 read with Section 120-B of the IPC, 1860, and any other pending applications filed in relation to it, as it was devoid of any merit to be of consideration.

The petitioner had sought a job at Government College, Dhaliara, by presenting forged certificates. His family members had also procured false certificates so as to gain employment with the Government of Himachal Pradesh. He had also managed to obtain recognition for 100 B.Ed seats and 25 B.Ed seats in the Thakur College of Education on the basis of these false documents. After the culmination of the investigation by the CBI, the report of the same, which identified Dilesh Kumar as the kingpin of the operation, was sent to the Chief Judicial Magistrate. The Chief Magistrate, exercising its powers under Section 306 of the CrPC, granted a tender for pardon to two of the accused named by the CBI in its report, after duly examining them under oath.

The Court, referring to the case of Dilesh Kumar v. Central Bureau of Investigation,2014 SCC OnLine HP 4367, stated that as the trial court was the Special Judicial Magistrate of the CBI, it was not required on the part of the High Court to commit the case for trial to any other court, as was given under Section 306 (5) of the CrPC. It then cited the cases of Central Bureau of Investigation, Chennai v. Arul Kumar, (2016) 11 SCC 733 and Harshad S. Mehta v. State of Maharashtra, (2001) 8 SCC 257 to hold that the Special Court has the exclusive jurisdiction to deal with matters of the CBI and thus, it can grant tenders for pardon under Section 306 of the CrPC, and also take cognizance of matters pertaining to the CBI. The Special Magistrate thus has the mandate to try the case and the contours of Section 306 bind him/her only so far as they can be reasonably followed. [Rajesh Thakur v. CBI, 2018 SCC OnLine HP 1573, decided on 05-11-2018]

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Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of CJ Ranjan Gogoi and S.K.Kaul, J. addressed the progress in the matter regarding CBI Director Alok Verma and his deputy Special Director Rakesh Asthana in the alleged corruption charges.

The CVC filed its enquiry report of CBI Alok Verma in a sealed cover in the Supreme Court. Interim CBI Director M. Nageswara Rao also filed report on decisions taken by him for the period of 23-10-2018 to 26-10-2018.

Further, it was observed by the Supreme Court that, Registry was open on Sunday but no intimation in that regard was made for the filing of the report, for which Solicitor General Tushar Mehta apologised.


 Interim directions by the Supreme Court were as follows:

  • Enquiry in regard to the allegations made against the present Director, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Alok Verma shall be completed by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) within a period of two weeks.
  • The stated enquiry will be conducted under the supervision of the retired judge of the Supreme Court of India, Justice A.K. Patnaik.
  • M. Nageswara Rao who has been entrusted with the task of looking after the duties of the Director of the CBI shall not take any policy decisions or any major decisions and will perform the routine tasks that are essential to keep the functionality of CBI.

The matter will be considered on Friday, i.e. 16-11-2018. [Common Cause v. Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine SC 2423, Order dated 12-11-2018]

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Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of CJ Ranjan Gogoi and U.U Lalit and K.M. Joseph, JJ. gave directions to the Hyderabad Police in order to provide adequate security to the complainant in the alleged bribery case against CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana.

According to the media reports, Satish Sana i.e. complainant approached the Supreme Court for seeking protection and stay on the notice issued by the agency summoning him for interrogation.

The Bench refused to stay CBI summons and rejected the complainant’s plea for recording his statement before the retired Supreme Court judge Justice A.K. Patnaik.

[Source: PTI]