Prashant Bhushan in heated exchange with judges in the Birla, Sahara raids case

Prashant Bhushan & Justice Khehar

The hearing in the case relating to raids on the Sahara and Birla Groups witnessed a heated exchange between advocate Prashant Bhushan and the two judges on the Bench, Justice JS Khehar and Justice Arun Mishra.

NGO Common Cause had moved the Supreme Court by way of an interim application, seeking a SIT probe into the evidence gathered against the Sahara Group and the Aditya Birla Group regarding bribing of politicians.

The application was filed in the 2015 case concerning the appointments of Central Vigilance Commissioner and Vigilance Commissioner.

As per the application, during the investigation in relation to coal block allocations to Hindalco Industries – an Aditya Birla Group company – the CBI conducted simultaneous search operations in four cities – New Delhi, Mumbai, Secunderabad and Bhubaneshwar, on October 15, 2013. The petitioner had sought an SIT probe into the same.

When the matter was last heard, the court had said that the material produced was not satisfactory and had asked the petitioner to bring more credible material.

When the case came up for hearing today, advocate Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for the petitioner, submitted that he has received an appraisal report which contains an analysis by the Income Tax Department, on all the materials seized during the raids.

Bhushan said that the evidence clearly pointed to the bribing of an official of the Department of Revenue Intelligence. He then sought some time to file the details on affidavit.

The Bench, however, was far from impressed.

“We had fixed a specific date for the hearing after Mr. Shanti Bhushan stated that additional documents will be filed by today. This is very abnormal. How will a Constitutional authority function…?”

Bushan said that the matter would have come up only on January 11 if the Supreme Court did not have a holiday on Monday this week.

“However, the Central government mentioned the matter and got it listed for today. That is why it is shown in the supplementary list. Else it would not have come in the supplementary list.”

Bhushan then requested the court to list the matter after the winter vacation.

The Bench was, however not inclined to allow that, terming it “unreasonable”. It also said that the petitioner is making allegations against high functionaries, which Bhushan denied vehemently.

A visibly upset Bhushan demanded how it was unreasonable if he demanded two more weeks to file an affidavit in the light of the volumnious material that had come into his hands.

The Bench did not budge and instead allowed Bhushan one more day to file additional material, and adjourned the matter. Justice Khehar said,

“It is a matter of burning midnight oil for one night today. Finish it today and file it tomorrow. We will hear it day after.”

The matter has been adjourned for December 16, i.e Friday this week.