The Supreme Court will examine whether states could file an appeal challenging the acquittal in a criminal case, probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), if the agency was dragging its feet on the matter.
A bench of Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice S.S. Nijjar Monday issued notice to the central government and Congress leader Ajit Jogi’s son Amit Jogi on a petition by the Chhattisgarh government challenging the state high court order holding its appeal challenging Jogi’s acquittal was not maintainable.
The court said that it would examine the state government’s appeal only on the question of law.
The high court had rejected the Chhattisgarh government plea as not maintainable, relying on apex court verdict in Lalu Prasad’s case wherein it had held that Bihar government was not competent to direct the public prosecutor to appeal against the order of his acquittal.
Lalu Prasad was acquitted in a case tried under Prevention of Corruption Act that was investigated by the CBI which had not appealed against his acquittal.
Appearing for the Chhattisgarh government, senior counsel L. Nageshwar Rao faulted the apex court verdict that the state or its prosecuting agencies had no locus in filing an appeal against the acquittal order in the case investigated by the CBI.
The petition said that question raised by it involves a “question of law or far-reaching public importance, namely whether the State government can file an appeal, from and order of acquittal under section 378 of the Cr.P.C.(Criminal Procedure Code), where the investigation has been carried out by the CBI or some other central agency.”
It said that apex court decision in Lalu Prasad case required reconsideration for “not only is it flawed in the manner in which it construed the statute, but unwittingly upset the delicate balance between the Union and the State in relation to administration of justice”.
The petition said that there was no justification for the apex court to create an exception denuding the state government of its right to appeal against an acquittal. By the judgment, an additional right was vested in the central government to appeal an acquittal irrespective of the state government, it said.
In the Jogi case, Nationalist Congress Party leader Ram Avtar Jaggi was shot dead on June 4, 2003 by Chiman Singh. The murder was investigated by the CBI which filed a charge sheet against 31 accused.
The prosecution case was that Jaggi was organisuing a rally at Raipur which was expecting huge crowds and this was seen as political threat to the then chief minister Ajit Jogi and his son Amit Jogi, the petition said.
The investigating agency had held that murder was committed after a criminal conspiracy hatched between Chiman Singh, Amit Jogi, Yahya Dhebar, Abhay Goel and Firoz Siddiqui, it said, adding that the trial court May 31, 2007, convicted 28 accused but acquitted Amit Jogi.
The CBI appealed against the acquittal of Amit Jogi after three and a half years but the plea was declined by the high court. When the Chhattisgarh government moved the court, its plea was rejected as non-maintainable.