Coal scam: Special Central Bureau Investigation Court acquits former Coal Secretary Gupta

On Thursday, a special CBI Court acquitted Ex-Coal Secretary HC Gupta & a Delhi-based firm Pushp Steel & Mining Pvt Ltd (PSMPL) in an alleged coal scam case pertaining to the allocation of ‘Brahmapuri coal block’ situated in Madhya Pradesh.
Special CBI judge Bharat Parashar while passing Judgement clearly mentioned that prosecution has been miserably failed in proving any of the charges — either for the offence of criminal conspiracy under Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) or for the offence of criminal misconduct, the offence of criminal breach of trust by a public servant under Section 409 of the IPC.
“So, I hereby acquit both accused — PSMPL & Gupta — in the present case of all offences,” the judge said.
Advocate Rajat Mathur, appearing for accused Gupta, had denied the allegations & had claimed that the case of the CBI was false.
The probe agency had alleged that the company got a mining lease on the basis of a recommendation from the State Govt. despite having no experience & lacking enough capital required for starting mining operations.
The company was allotted Brahmapuri coal block on the recommendation by the Screening Committee for its proposed Sponge Iron End-Use Project.
Gupta, who was the Coal Secretary from Dec 31, 2005 to Nov 2008, & PSMPL.

The allocation of Brahmapuri coal block was done on the basis of allegedly false information that the firm possessed an iron ore mining lease when it had none, CBI claimed.

It had said, “It was further alleged the company did not have any experience in steel manufacturing & the net worth of the group companies was around Rs 3.01 crores, which was insignificant”.

Supreme Court grants time till Sept 6 to CBI to complete probe in accident case involving Unnao rape survivor

The Supreme Court Monday granted to the CBI time till September 6 to complete the investigation into the road accident in which the Unnao rape survivor and her lawyer were critically injured and two of her aunts killed.

The apex court, which had earlier given two weeks to the CBI to complete the probe, extended the time while noting that the probe agency has done “extensive investigation” in the case so far.

“We have perused the report of the CBI. This court, vide order dated August 1, 2019, granted an outer limit of two weeks to complete the investigation. On perusal of the report, we find that the CBI has done extensive investigation but some loose ends need to be tied up,” a bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said.

“Some of the investigation relates to collating and analyzing the material already collected, especially the electronic records. Most importantly the statements of the victim and her counsel who was driving the car could not be recorded till date, as they are both not in a position to make a statement,” the bench noted in its order.

While seeking four more weeks to complete the probe, CBI told the top court that statements of rape survivor and her lawyer have not been recorded yet and it wants to analyse certain electronic evidence collected so far during the probe.

The court also directed the Uttar Pradesh government to pay Rs 5 lakh to the lawyer who is in a critical condition and undergoing treatment.

The bench however took exception to some public statements made by the family members of the rape survivor in the media and said it might help the accused during the trial of the case.

“If you have any grievances, feel free to tell us. We are here to help you. Some members of her family are going to the media. It may rather help the accused,” the bench observed.

At the outset, senior advocate V Giri, assisting the top court as an amicus curiae in the matter, told the bench that the lawyer injured in the road accident is still in a critical condition and he has been shifted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, for further treatment.

“A lot of money is required for his (lawyer) treatment and attendance. Though treatment has been provided to him free at AIIMS, there are expenditure which needs to be made. We, therefore, direct the state of UP to pay a sum of Rupees five lakhs to the wife of the victim’s counsel within three days from today,” the bench said, adding that “the amount be adjusted against the compensation finally adjudicated”.

During the hearing, the bench asked, “Who is appearing for the CBI? You (CBI) have asked for extension of time (to complete the probe) in the ground that statements of the victim and her lawyer have not been recorded yet”.

Advocate Rajat Nair, appearing for CBI, said that the agency has filed an application in this regard.

The bench has posted the matter for further hearing on September 6.

On August 1, the apex court had directed Uttar Pradesh government to provide Rs 25 lakh to the rape survivor as an interim compensation.

The top court had on August 2 directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to complete the investigation in the case within seven days, adding that the agency could avail additional seven days in exceptional circumstances, but in no case the time frame would be extended beyond a fortnight.

It had earlier ordered transfer of all the five related cases in the matter to Delhi but later modified its order putting in abeyance shifting of the accident case till the probe was completed.

The modification was done stating that due to shifting of the case, the local court was facing technical hurdle in passing orders of remand for the accused who are being arrested in course of the probe.

The court had said the order transferring the accident case “shall remain in abeyance for the period during which the said case remains under investigation, which we have stipulated in the order dated August 1, 2019, to be completed in a maximum period of 15 days, preferably within seven days. The order dated August 1, 2019, is modified accordingly”.

The woman, allegedly raped by BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar in 2017 when she was a minor, is battling for life after a truck rammed into the car she was travelling in with some family members and her lawyer. Two of her aunts died in the road accident.

She was airlifted from a hospital in Lucknow and brought to the AIIMS for better care as she continued to be critical.

CBI Registers FIR Against Lawyers Collective For Alleged FCRA Violations; NGO Terms It An Attempt To Silence Them

The CBI has registered a criminal case against the NGO Lawyers Collective for alleged violations of Foreign Contributions Registration Act, reports the PTI. The FIR has named Senior Advocate Anand Grover, a trustee and founder-director of the NGO, as an accused. As per the PTI report, unknown officer-bearers and functionaries of the NGO and unknown private persons and public servants have also been made accused in the FIR filed under IPC sections that deal with forgery, cheating and criminal conspiracy. Sections of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 have also been included in the FIR by the central agency after receiving a compliant against the Collective from the Union Home Ministry.

The FIR is as per a complaint filed by Anil Kumar Dhasmana, an Under Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which was filed on 15 May 2019 alleging that the NGO diverted foreign contributions received by them for activities not mentioned in the objects of association and that funds were used for personal expenses unrelated to these objects.

Lawyers Collective has expressed “shock and outrage” at the FIR. They have stated that the FCRA license was cancelled in 2016 on “illegal and arbitrary” grounds as a vindictive measure for taking up sensitive cases against the government. The cancellation has been challenged in Bombay High Court, where the matter is still pending. In the statement, Lawyers Collective said that it has “reasons to believe that its office bearers are personally being targeted for speaking up in defence of human rights, secularism and independence of judiciary” and to “silence them as they have taken up sensitive cases in the past”.

It has expressed surprise at the registration of FIR now, even though FCRA proceedings were initiated three years ago. In May 2019, the Supreme Court had issued notice in a petition filed by an NGO ‘Lawyers Voice’ seeking SIT probe into the alleged violations committed by Lawyers Collective. Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, one of the founder-members of the NGO, in a press release had then said that the petition was an attempt to silence the organization which was vocal in demanding a due enquiry into the sexual harassment allegations against the Chief Justice of India. Jaising had also said that CJI should have recused from hearing the matter. “It has been brought to our knowledge that during the proceedings today, though the petitioner’s advocate did not orally seek any interim orders, the court has passed an order to the effect that the pendency of the petition will not come in the way of the government agencies proceeding in the matter.

It is obvious to us that this is victimization on account of Ms Jaising taking up the issue of the procedure adopted in relation to the allegations against the Chief Justice of India by a former employee of the Supreme Court, which Ms Jaising has done in her capacity as a concerned citizen, a senior member of the Bar and a women’s rights advocate, without commenting on the merits of the allegations. Considering that Ms. Jaising has been publicly vocal on the issue of due process of law in relation to the conduct of the in-house inquiry, the Chief Justice ought to have recused himself from hearing the matter,” the statement read. The PIL, resting on the petitioner’s “reliable information” said that “despite recording serious acts of commission and omission by the Union of India in its order dated May 31, 2016 and order dated November 27, 2016, which led to the cancellation of FCRA certificate of Lawyers’ Collective, the officers of the Union of India have deliberately not registered offences against the respondents under the respective criminal Acts for reasons best known to them”.

Anand Grover is known for activism for the protection of rights of LGBT community, HIV/AIDs patients etc. He was the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health from August 2008 to July 2014. He is currently and acting member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy. He had led the Naz Foundation’s case in Delhi High Court which had decriminalized homosexuality in 2009.

High Court grants 4 more months time to CBI to complete probe in Asthana bribery case

New Delhi : The Delhi High Court Friday granted four more months to the CBI to complete its probe in a bribery case involving the agency’s former special director Rakesh Asthana.

Justice Mukta Gupta allowed the CBI’s plea seeking extension of time to complete its investigation in the case lodged against Asthana, DSP Devender Kumar and middleman Manoj Prasad.

On January 11, the court had granted 10 weeks to the probe agency to complete its investigation. The CBI had approached the high court after completion of 10 weeks time.

Asthana was booked on the allegations of criminal conspiracy, corruption and criminal misconduct under relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Kumar, earlier the investigating officer in a case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi, was arrested on the allegations of forgery in recording the statement of Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Babu Sana, who had allegedly paid bribe to get relief in the case.

He was arrested on October 22, 2018 and granted bail on October 31.

The CBI had sought more time to complete its probe in the case so as to conduct the probe in a free, fair and transparent manner.

The high court was earlier informed that Kumar has filed an appeal before the Supreme Court against the high court’s order dismissing his and others’ plea to quash the FIR against them.

The court had also questioned the CBI for not sending Letters Rogatory (LRs) to various countries till mid of April even though it had passed in January the order dismissing the pleas to quash the FIR.

LRs are a formal request from a court to a foreign court for some judicial assistance.

The high court in January had disposed of three petitions of Asthana, Kumar and Prasad by a common order in which the CBI was directed to complete investigation in the case within ten weeks.

Supreme Court raps CBI for transferring officer probing Bihar shelter home cases

The Supreme Court Thursday came down heavily on CBI for transferring its former Joint Director A K Sharma, who was probing Bihar’s shelter home cases, out of the agency in violation of the court’s order and directed its then interim chief M Nageswara Rao to personally appear before it on February 12.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi took serious note of violation of two earlier orders of the apex court and issued contempt notice to Rao for transferring Sharma to the CRPF on January 17 without taking prior permission from the court.

The bench, which also comprised Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, directed CBI Director Rishi Kumar Shukla to give the names of officers who were part of the process in transferring Sharma out of the probe agency.

The top court referred to its earlier orders in which it had asked CBI not to remove Sharma from the team probing Bihar shelter home cases.

Besides Rao, the bench also sought appearance of all other CBI officers who were involved in the transfer process of Sharma on February 12.

It also directed for presence of S Bhasu Ram, in-charge Director of Prosecution CBI, for violating its order.

Several girls were allegedly raped and sexually abused at an NGO-run shelter home in Muzaffarpur and the issue had come to light following a report by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).

Supreme Court asks Kolkata police chief to cooperate with CBI.

 The Supreme Court Tuesday directed Kolkata Police Commissioner 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.

The apex court said Kumar will appear before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for investigation at Shillong in Meghalaya and no coercive steps, including the arrest of the Kolkata Police chief, will take place during the course of the probe.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi also issued a notice to Kumar and sought his response before February 20, the next date of hearing on the allegations by the CBI that he was tampering with electronic evidence and the SIT headed by him provided the agency with doctored materials.

The apex court also directed the West Bengal chief secretary, the director general of police (DGP) and the Kolkata Police commissioner to file replies on the contempt pleas filed against them by the CBI on or before February 18.

The bench, also comprising justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjeev Khanna, said on the consideration of replies of the chief secretary, the DGP and the Kolkata police commissioner, the court might prefer the personal appearance of these three authorities on February 20.

The apex court’s secretary general will inform them on February 19 whether they are required to be present before the apex court on February 20, the bench said.

During the hearing, which lasted for about 15 minutes, Attorney General (AG) K K Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta narrated the sequence of events of the Saradha scam case since 2014 .

They alleged that Kumar was not cooperating in the investigation of the cases arising out of the chit fund scam, which was handed over to the CBI by the Supreme Court.

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the West Bengal police, of which Kumar was the functional head, was not handing over the complete documents over to the CBI and some of the documents given by the SIT were doctored, Mehta and Venugopal alleged.

The CBI has alleged that the state SIT had not given the complete call data details and there was serious omission or commission wilfully done by the SIT.

“What was given to us were doctored copy of call records,” the AG said, mentioning “the chit fund scam concerning the Rose Valley case was a case of cheating, involving Rs 15, 000 crores.”.

While he was making submissions, the bench proposed to pass an order that it will direct Kumar to make himself available for the investigation.

“No reason why he will not make himself available for the investigation,” the bench said.

However, when Venugopal said the CBI has also filed a contemp petition against the Kolkata police chief, the bench said any order can be passed only after examining the replies of the parties.

“We will examine whether there is commission of contempt or not. We have to examine. The other side has to be heard,” the bench said.

The AG also narrated the incident of detention of CBI officials who reached Kolkata Police chief’s residence on Sunday for questioning him.

Venugopal said 25 CBI officials were bundled into a bus and taken to the police station, and even joint director of CBI Vikas Shrivastav’s house was under seige of the West Bengal police.

He said the entire family of Shrivastav kept themselves locked in the house while the personnel of the state police were banging their doors.

Such a stand taken by the West Bengal government manifests that there is total breakdown of constitutional mechanism and there will be serious repercussion if such happenings continues, the AG said.

However, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the West Bengal police, opposed the allegations of the CBI, saying it is an attempt to harass and humiliate the Kolkata police commissioner.

He even tried to point out an order of the apex court in which he said the role of the SIT was appreciated and it was clearly stated that the probe in the chit fund cases can be transferred to the CBI because it involved multi state operations.

Singhvi said till now no FIR has been lodged against Kumar and he has not even been made an accused in any of the cases arising out of the chit fund scam.

The Kolkata police commissioner was served notice three times and there was an intervention of the Calcutta High Court so he has not appeared before the CBI, he said

Referring to the events of Sunday when the CBI officials had go to Kumar’s residence in connection with the probe, Singhvi said such a step against the Kolkata police chief was taken after a gap of three years.

The Sunday events took place two days after a political rally in the state, he said.

The West Bengal Police and Kumar are fully cooperating with the agency and the DGP had written five letters to the CBI in connection with the probe, he claimed.

Kumar has also conveyed to the CBI that the agency’s officials can come to his office anytime or they can meet him at any of the central places in the city, Singhvi said.

He said there was no destruction of evidence which the CBI is claiming after five years of investigation.

“Where is the destruction of evidence after five years. After five years no FIR against Kumar for destruction of evidence under section 201 has been submitted,” Singhvi said.

However, the bench interrupted and told him that it has already made a proposal that the Kolkata police commissioner will have to join the investigation.

CBI registers FIR in ICICI Bank-Videocon loan case

The CBI has registered an FIR in connection with alleged irregularities in the Rs 3,250 crore ICICI Bank-Videocon loan case and is carrying out searches Thursday at the group headquarters in Mumbai and offices in Aurangabad, officials said.

The search operation started Thursday morning and also covered offices of Nupower, a company operated by ICICI Bank’s former CEO Chanda Kochhar’s husband Deepak Kochhar and Supreme Energy, they said.

It is alleged that Videocon promoter Venugopal Dhoot allegedly invested crores of Rupees in Nupower months after the Videocon group got Rs 3,250 crore as loan from the ICICI Bank in 2012, they said.

The agency had registered a preliminary enquiry against Videocon promoter Venugopal Dhoot, Deepak Kochhar and unidentified others in March last year, they said.

A PE is a precursor before the agency lodges an FIR to probe criminal charges on the basis of evidence collected during the former exercise.

The agency has now converted it into an FIR which means a full blown investigation has been started by the agency after registration of a case.

The details of the FIR and names of the accused are awaited, they said.

1984 anti-Sikh riots: SC notice to CBI on Sajjan Kumar’s appeal

The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the CBI on former Congress leader Sajjan Kumar’s appeal against his conviction in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Ashok Bhushan and S K Kaul also issued notice on Kumar’s bail plea

Kumar, 73, surrendered before a trial court here on December 31, 2018 to serve his sentence in accordance with the Delhi High Court’s December 17 judgement, which convicted and sent him to prison for the “remainder of his natural life”.

The case in which Kumar was convicted and sentenced relates to the killing of five Sikhs in Delhi Cantonment’s Raj Nagar Part-I area of southwest Delhi on November 1-2, 1984 and the burning down of a gurudwara

The riots broke out after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, by her two Sikh bodyguards.

Kumar resigned from the Congress after his conviction in the case

The high court found Kumar guilty of criminal conspiracy and abetment in commission of crimes of murder, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of communal harmony and defiling and destruction of a gurudwara

It also upheld the conviction and varying sentences awarded by a trial court to five others — former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal, Girdhari Lal and former MLAs Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar

In its judgment, the high court noted that over 2,700 Sikhs were killed in the national capital during the 1984 riots, which it described as a “carnage of unbelievable proportions”

It said the riots were a “crime against humanity” perpetrated by those who enjoyed “political patronage” and aided by an “indifferent” law enforcement agency

The high court set aside the trial court’s 2010 verdict, which had acquitted Kumar in the case.

SC to hear on Monday version of CVC which probed CBI director Verma

New Delhi:The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on Monday the version of the Central Vigilance Commission, which was directed to complete within two weeks its preliminary inquiry against CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma, who has been divested of his duties and sent on leave by the Centre.

The hearing assumes significance as Verma, who has a running feud with Special CBI Director Rakesh Asthana, has been appearing before the three-member CVC headed by K V Chowdary and is understood to have given point-wise refusal to all the allegations levelled against him by his deputy.

Verma’s plea, which had been heard by a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on previous occasions, is now listed for hearing on November 12 before a two-judge bench comprising the CJI and Justice S K Kaul.

The decision that a smaller bench would hear the case has come after the CJI, in his recent informal interaction with journalists, said that on Mondays and Fridays, when the apex court hears miscellaneous cases, only two-judge benches would sit.

The court had appointed former apex court judge A K Patnaik to supervise the ongoing inquiry of CVC against Verma.

Besides issuing notices to the Centre and the CVC on the plea of Verma, the apex court, on October 26, had also set a deadline of two weeks for the CVC to complete the preliminary inquiry against the CBI director.

It had also barred IPS officer M Nageswara Rao, who has been given interim charge of the CBI, from taking any major decision.

The top court on Monday would also peruse the decisions taken by Rao from October 23, including transfer of investigations and change of investigating officers and may pass some appropriate orders on them.

It had said that a list of all the decisions taken by Rao between “October 23, 2018 and up to this hour including decisions with regard to transfer of investigations, change of investigating officer(s) etc will be furnished to the court in a sealed cover on or before November 12, 2018 whereafter orders as would be appropriate will be passed by the court.” 

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CVC, had said that the CVC has been conducting an inquiry into the allegations made in the August 24 note/letter of the Cabinet Secretary with regard to Verma.

Besides the plea filed by Verma, the court is also seized of the PIL filed by NGO Common Cause, which has sought a probe by special investigation team against CBI officers including Asthana, and had issued notices to the Centre, CBI, CVC, Asthana, Verma and Rao asking them to respond to it by November 12.

Asthana has also moved the Supreme Court with a separate petition in the matter and has sought removal of Verma from the post of CBI Director.

“We want to see preliminary probe report in 10 days to decide whether it requires further probe,” the bench had said.

Highlights of SC hearing on Verma’s plea

New Delhi:The following are the highlights of the Supreme Court hearing in CBI Director Alok Verma’s petition challenging the Centre’s decision to divest him of all his powers:

– Enquiry into the allegations made in the August 24 note/ letter of the Cabinet Secretary on Verma to be completed by Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) within two weeks.

– The enquiry to be supervised by retired Supreme Court Judge AK Patnaik.

– All decisions taken CBI Joint Director M Nageswara Rao, who has been given the duty of CBI director from October 23 till today to be submitted in sealed cover to SC by November 12, the next date of hearing.

– Rao cannot take any major or policy decision; to continue routine work to keep CBI going.

– After furnishing of list of decisions taken by Rao, SC to pass appropriate orders relating to transfer of investigations, change of Investigating Officers.

– Notice issued to Centre and CVC on Verma’s petition, asked to file responses.

– SC also dealt with plea by NGO Common Cause seeking SIT probe into allegations of corruption against CBI officers including Special Director Rakesh Asthana.

– Notice issued to Centre, CBI, CVC, Asthana, Verma an Rao on the NGO’s plea.

– Asthana approached SC with his petition, to be listed later