HC asks ASG to clarify his appointment to argue against 2G case acquittals

A view of Delhi High Court building in New Delhi (Photo: PTI)
The Delhi High Court Monday asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain to clarify whether there was any notification issued by the government appointing him as a prosecutor to argue the CBI and ED appeals against the acquittal of former telecom minister A Raja and others in the 2G spectrum allocation cases.

The high court was informed by the counsel for one of the acquitted individual that through a notification issued in February 2018, the then ASG Tushar Mehta, now SG, was appointed as special public prosecutor for conducting prosecution or filing appeal and revision arising out of cases related to 2G spectrum allocation scam.

Justice Brijesh Sethi said, I know earlier there was a notification in favour of Tushar Mehta. I hope and believe there is some kind of delegation. I need clarification on that aspect.

To this, ASG Jain said Ripu Daman Bharadwaj is the standing counsel for CBI and a request was made to him (Jain) to appear in the case so he appeared.

He said he will seek instructions on the issue and apprise the court on Tuesday.

The arguments took place on an application by Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd promoter Asif Balwa seeking a copy of the sanction letter of the central government to the CBI to file an appeal against the acquittal of the accused in the case.

Advocates Vijay Aggarwal, Mudit Jain and Ashul Aggarwal, representing Asif, said the CBI has not placed on record the mandatory authority under the provisions of the CrPC and added that the appeal was filed under the signatures of advocate Sanjeev Bhandari with a stamp of SPP.

In 2G cases, the SPP is appointed by way of a specific notification. An earlier notification was issued for the trial, which was superseded by a February 2018 notification appointing Tushar Mehta (now Solicitor General) to act as SPP. The notification was specific to the 2G cases and therefore, the appeal filed itself was without any authority and the CBI ought to clarify the same before the court, Aggarwal contended.

Responding to this, Jain said an order was passed by the Centre to file an appeal and if the court needs, he will file the document in a sealed cover for perusal of the judge.

He said it was an administrative order and the respondents were not supposed to be privy to it as it was a matter purely between the central government and the prosecuting agency.

The submission was countered by Aggarwal who said the issue goes to the very root of the matter and the CBI should show him the document and added, Sadda haq aithe rakh (give me my right).

Meanwhile, the high court directed the superintendent of Tihar Jail to arrange one hour video conferencing for Unitech Wireless Pvt Ltd MD Sanjay Chandra, who is lodged in prison in another case, with his lawyers on Monday, Wednesday and Friday to enable them to prepare for the ongoing hearings.

The high court has commenced day-to-day hearing on CBI's leave to appeal' against the acquittal of all the individuals and firms. After finishing submissions in the CBI case, the high court will take up the ED's money laundering case in which also all the accused were acquitted by the special court.

Leave to appeal is a formal permission granted by a court to a party to challenge a decision in a higher court.

On September 29, the high court had ordered day-to-day hearing on the CBI and ED appeals against the acquittal of the accused, saying delay in filing applications and voluminous documents should not deter it from hearing criminal appeals.

It had allowed the pleas of the two investigative agencies for early hearing in the leave to appeal' applications.

A special court had on December 21, 2017 acquitted Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and others in the CBI and the ED cases related to the scam.

Besides Raja and Kanimozhi, the special court had acquitted former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura; Raja's erstwhile private secretary R K Chandolia; Unitech Ltd MD Sanjay Chandra and three top executives of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (RADAG) -- Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair, in the 2G case filed by the CBI.

Swan Telecom promoters Shahid Balwa and Vinod Goenka and directors of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd Asif Balwa and Rajiv Agarwal were also acquitted in the CBI case.

The special court had also acquitted Swan Telecom (P) Ltd; Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Ltd; Reliance Telecom Ltd; film producer Karim Morani and Director of Kalaignar TV Sharad Kumar in the CBI case.

On the same day, the special court also acquitted 19 accused, including Raja, Kanimozhi, DMK supremo M Karunanidhi's wife Dayalu Ammal, Vinod Goenka, Asif Balwa, Karim Morani, P Amirtham and Sharad Kumar in the ED case.

The special court had also acquitted Essar Group promoters Ravi Kant Ruia and Anshuman Ruia, Loop Telecom promoters I P Khaitan and Kiran Khaitan and four others in a separate case arising out of the 2G scam probe.

In March 2018, the ED and CBI had approached the high court challenging the special court's order acquitting all the accused.

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