Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan on Wednesday voiced his disappointment at the Supreme Court’s rejection of the plea by Common Cause for a court-monitored probe by a Special Investigation Team into the alleged payoffs by the Aditya Birla and Sahara Groups to political leaders of various parties.
In a statement Bhushan said, “This judgment is very unfortunate and is a setback to the whole campaign against corruption and for probity in public life. It is also a black mark on the reputation of the Supreme Court which had recently distinguished itself by directing independent investigation into the coal scam and the 2G scam.”
Today’s judgment, the statement goes on to add, that though the Court has often said that law is equal for everyone and “be you ever so high the law is above you,” it betrayed this precept in its judgment today.
Bhushan argued that the Supreme Court’s judgment today “will leave a cloud of suspicion over all the persons mentioned in these documents, which cloud could only have dissipated if there had been an independent investigation into the payoffs mentioned in these documents.”
It was therefore, he said, in the interest of people mentioned to have themselves sought an investigation which would have cleared them if they were not guilty.
“Unfortunately those in authority were hell-bent into stonewalling any investigation into this matter and even more unfortunately the Supreme Court also abdicated its constitutional responsibility for ensuring such investigation,” the statement added.
Both Prashant Bhushan and Shanti Bhushan had argued that this case was substantially different from the Jain Hawala case. Unlike in the Hawala case, they alleged these were not stray names jotted down on a diary but computer printouts and papers seized in an official raid by the Income Tax Department. They bore the department’s seal and signature of witnesses. They had been owned up by company officials during interrogation and there was scope for an inquiry based on call detail records, names and other trails provided by the seized papers.
But the Supreme Court Bench thought otherwise and went by the apex court’s earlier order in the Jain Hawala case in which it had held that just names and figures were not enough for prosecution but the money trail had to be established.
Bhushans’ argument that they were not seeking a prosecution but merely an investigation was not found convincing by the court.