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Sahara-Birla Case Echoes In Hearing Of Anil Deshmukh's Petition In Supreme Court

Radhika Roy
8 April 2021 2:18 PM GMT
Sahara-Birla Case Echoes In Hearing Of Anil Deshmukhs Petition In Supreme Court

The Sahara-Birla matter of 2017 echoed in today's proceeding pertaining to the challenge posed by Maharashtra Government and former Home Minister of the State Anil Deshmukh against the Bombay High Court direction for a preliminary inquiry by the CBI into the allegations raised by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Deshmukh, drew parallels with the 2017 case wherein a Division Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy had held that documents from Sahara-Birla offices indicating an alleged pay-off to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and other public servants, were not cogent enough to direct for a Court-monitored independent investigation. In that case, the Court had held that enquiry cannot be ordered on the basis of documents which are not admissible in evidence.

Sibal submitted that in the instant case, the question was whether a CBI inquiry could be ordered on the basis of a mere statement of Parambir Singh, which was not substantiated. He stated that Singh had no personal knowledge and the statement had no evidentiary value; it was merely hear say.

"It is not his case that he has any knowledge. His case is that this statement was made by the Home Minister to Patil, who then to Bhujhbal, who then talked to Waze, who told me. On this basis, a CBI inquiry was ordered against me. There is no evidentiary value. It is not prima facie reliable and is therefore not admissible", argued Sibal.

As the statement of Singh was merely based on hearsay, Sibal contended that going by the precedent set by the Sahara-Birla case, enquiry could not have been ordered.

"In that case, despite entries being present, the Court did not allow an investigation because the entries were not in regular books of account and they require prima facie evidence. That was the principle by 3 Judges of this Court. In this case, the statement was made based on hearsay. Can that be counted?", submitted Sibal.

In response to Justice Kaul's observation that the facts being cited by Sibal were on a different footing, Sibal contended that he was on the principle and that the inquiry ordered had to be based on a legal principle. Before concluding, Sibal observed that "it would be a sad day in the country" if the Court upheld the order in this manner.

The Bench of Justices SK Kaul and Hemant Gupta, however, dismissed the Appeals on account of the nature of allegations and persona of the individuals involved, and upheld the Bombay High Court decision, in departure from the Supreme Court's order in Common Cause.

In the 2017 case, a Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra had ruled that mere documents indicating an alleged pay-off to the Prime Minister would not be enough to accept the plea for a Court-monitored independent investigation. During this case, the then Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi had relied upon the Jain Hawala case to contend that documents by themselves could not be admissible evidence.

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