SC dismisses plea for probe into alleged Sahara-Birla payoffs
The Common Cause petition for inquiry into alleged payoffs to politicians by two corporate houses was rejected by the Supreme Court on Wednesday, which finds a parallel with the Jain Hawala case
A Supreme Court Bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy on Wednesday dismissed the petition seeking a court-monitored inquiry into alleged payoffs to politicians including the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, by Sahara and Aditya Birla Group of companies.
Among others who had figured in these documents were BJP’s LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Ravi Shankar Prasad, Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav, BSP chief Mayawati, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav, Congress leaders Salman Khurshid and Sheila Dikshit and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah.
“No democracy can survive if investigations are readily set in motion against important constitutional functionaries without there being cogent material on record,” the Bench ruled.
The apex court made the remark in a detailed order passed after hearing day-long arguments by senior counsel Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan for the PIL petitioner, NGO Common Cause, and Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi for the Centre.
“No democracy can survive if investigations are readily set in motion against important constitutional functionaries without there being cogent material on record,” the Bench ruled
While some of the material indicated payoffs in crores of rupees made to various politicians and leaders of political parties, there was nothing to show that money was actually paid to any one of them, the Bench held.
“The process of law can be abused very easily to achieve ulterior goals” if such pleas were allowed, the Bench maintained.
The Bhushans cited the Lalita Kumari case in which a five-member Constitution Bench of the apex court had ruled that FIR was a must on all complaints pertaining to commission of cognisable offence without going into the evidentiary value.
The Bench, however, accepted Mukul Rohatgi’s contention that the petitioner’s plea was similar to the Jain hawala case against BJP leader LK Advani and others in which the SC quashed the FIR, holding that diary entries and loose sheets could not be treated as evidence in the absence of any corroborative material.
The apex court also pointed out that the Income Tax Settlement Commission had given its conclusion that the documents seized by the CBI and Income Tax Department during raids on the Sahara group were not genuine.
A combined reading of the SC verdict in the hawala and Bhajan Lal cases and the ITSC’s findings made it clear that it was not a fit case for directing investigation. Going by the material on record and the peculiar facts of the case, “We find no case is made to direct investigation against various political functionaries and officers. The applications are found to be meritless and dismissed,” the apex court ruled.