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"We Are Not Concerned With Further Developments, We Will Consider Whether Appeal Will Lie To DB Against SB Order?" SC On WB Coal Scam Probe

Mehal Jain
1 March 2021 7:53 AM GMT
We Are Not Concerned With Further Developments, We Will Consider Whether Appeal Will Lie To DB Against SB Order? SC On WB Coal Scam Probe
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On the CBI's request, the Supreme Court on Monday adjourned to March 10 the hearing on the challenge to the order of the Calcutta High Court whereby it allowed CBI to investigate a case pertaining to illegal mining and transportation of coal through Railways in West Bengal, without the State's consent.Appearing before the bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah, SG Tushar Mehta had sought...

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On the CBI's request, the Supreme Court on Monday adjourned to March 10 the hearing on the challenge to the order of the Calcutta High Court whereby it allowed CBI to investigate a case pertaining to illegal mining and transportation of coal through Railways in West Bengal, without the State's consent.

Appearing before the bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah, SG Tushar Mehta had sought a week's time to file his response.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing in an intervention application for Eastern Coalfields Ltd, the de facto complainant, prayed that his application be taken on board, and notice be issued. "There are further developments that make a vital difference to the case. We wish to file a reply", he advanced.
"We are considering the main point of LPA and whether it was maintainable. We are on the first point of whether an appeal lay before the division bench. We are not concerned with the further developments right now", observed Justice Shah.
"We wish to assist Your Lordships on the further developments. They want to scuttle the investigation. Please issue notice on my IA. If the SG wants time, the same may be granted and the matter may be heard on another day ", pressed Mr Salve.
"Apropos what Justice Shah just said, both the petitioner and the CBI had filed the LPA. We wish to assist Your Lordships on the Calcutta High Court rules governing LPA. Fauji's case would not apply here", advanced the SG.

The Supreme Court had in 2017 in Ram Kishan Fauji's case held that an intra-court appeal cannot be filed before a division bench of the high court if a single judge has passed the order in a criminal case. "The contention that solely because a writ petition is filed to quash an investigation it would have room for intra-court appeal, and if a petition is filed under inherent jurisdiction under Section 482 CrPC, there would be no space for an intra-court appeal, would create an anomalous, unacceptable and inconceivable situation. The provision contained in the Letters Patent does not allow or permit such an interpretation," a bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra, A M Khanwilkar and M M Shantanagoudar had said.

"The Calcutta High Court rules are similar to the other High Courts, that no appeal would lie", remarked Justice Chandrachud.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the state of West Bengal, prayed that the state's civil appeal be also listed-
"We are very concerned. Please grant a short date. It affects several other cases also "
The Single Judge Bench of the High Court had ruled that probe beyond the Railway areas (in the State of West Bengal), shall be conducted by the CBI only subject to specific consent being granted by appropriate authorities of the State of West Bengal. In an appeal preferred by CBI, a Division Bench of the High Court stayed the Single Judge's order and allowed CBI to investigate the case without any hindrance.
On Monday, it was prayed that the appeal against the Single Bench judgement also be listed on 10 March, urging that if the letters patent appeal is found to be not maintainable, the party cannot be left to remedy-less.
"They had appealed where they lost. They lost before the Single Judge, so they went before the DB. From the DB, they are now here in a SLP ", argued Mr Mehta.
Initially, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for the petitioner, was engaged in another court and was unable to appear before the bench. Accordingly, a passover was sought on his behalf. As the bench seemed inclined to adjourn the matter by one week to grant the CBI time to file its reply, it was urged on Mr Rohatgi's behalf that the matter had been given a short notice last week and that it may be passed over to be taken up later in the day.
"We are only adjourning the matter for a week. We are not granting a long adjournment", assured Justice Chandrachud.
The Supreme Court had on last Monday sought response of the Central Bureau of Investigation in the plea filed challenging order of the Calcutta High Court whereby it allowed CBI to investigate a case pertaining to illegal mining and transportation of coal through Railways in West Bengal, without the State's consent.

Justices Chandrachud and Shah had also issued notice to the Union of India and Superintendent of Police Anti- Corruption Branch along with CBI. The court however denied to grant interim protection from coercive steps to the petitioner.

Background

The case pertains to illegal mining and transportation of coal through Railways in connivance with officers of the Eastern Coalfield Limited, Railways, C.I.S.F. and some other private persons including the writ petitioner (Anup Majee).

A FIR was registered in the matter by CBI for offences of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust by public servants and criminal misconduct by public servants by dishonestly or fraudulently misappropriating the property entrusted to them or any property under their control as public servants or allowing other persons to do so.

The Petitioner had impugned the FIR before a Single Bench of the Calcutta High Court which held that authority of the CBI to investigate into the allegations in a particular case within Railway areas remains unfettered by the withdrawal of consent by the State Government.

In an appeal preferred by CBI, a Division Bench of the High Court stayed the Single Judge's order and allowed CBI to investigate the case without any hindrance. It observed,

"Proper investigation cannot be carried out if the investigation in such cases is divided into parts, drawing lines on territories once the premier central agency is in the process of investigation."

In case during the pendency of the present appeals, the investigation being carried out by the CBI is hampered, the process of investigation at this stage will certainly be prejudiced, which will not be in the interest of justice as any delay in the process may be fatal…"




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