Common Cause moves Supreme Court for SIT probe into raids on Aditya Birla, Sahara Groups

NGO Common Cause has filed an interim application in the Supreme Court seeking a SIT probe into the evidence gathered against Sahara Group and Aditya Birla group regarding bribing of politicians.

The application has been filed in the 2015 case concerning appointment of Central Vigilance Commissioner and Vigilance Commissioner.

As per the new 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 has submitted that

“the documents seized by the CBI in its search operation in Mumbai revealed massive bribery of politicians and officials of various ministries by the Aditya Birla group over several years. The simultaneous search operation conducted on 15.10.2013 by the CBI at Aditya Birla group’s office at Parliament Street, New Delhi, reportedly led to the recovery of incriminating documents and a huge stash of unaccounted for cash amounting to Rs. 25 crore.”

Giving the details of the raid, the application reveals interesting seizures made by the CBI.

“…the laptop of Mr. Shubhendu Amitabh, Group Executive President, was seized during the above raid. The laptop was found to contain evidence of highly incriminating money transactions. An email dated 16.11.2012 containing the cryptic entry, “Gujarat CM – 25 cr (12 Done- rest?)”, was also recovered from the said laptop.

records seized during the search operation at Delhi revealed payment of Rs. 7.08 crore made during the period from 09.01.2012 to 02.02.2012 under the heading “Project-J – Environment & Forest”. It is to be noted that during Ms. Jayanti Natrajan’s tenure as Minister, Environment & Forest, as many as 13 projects of Aditya Birla Group companies were cleared between 08.11.2011 and 17.06.2013.

The petition alleges that,

“actionable evidence gathered in the raids on Sahara group and Birla group companies concerning corruption and bribing of important public functionaries was given a quiet burial by the Income Tax Department and the CBI….

the CBI, instead of conducting a thorough scrutiny of their contents, simply transferred the highly incriminating documents to the Income Tax Department.”

The petitioner further alleges that the IT department did not take any action and the petitioner was, therefore, forced to move the Supreme Court in the coal scam case. The Supreme Court itself had, in 2015, asked the CBI to take action in accordance with law if the documents surfaced in raid on Birla group disclosed offences but no concrete action has been taken yet.

“This deliberate lapse suggests that the CBI is trying to protect the influential personalities named in the documents seized and is shielding powerful corporate entities.”

The application further states that it was learnt that both Sahara group and Birla group had approached the Income Tax Settlement Commission to settle their cases. Hence, the petitioners’ counsel had asked the CBDT, the CBI and the CVC not to allow any settlement in the matter and bar the business groups concerned from taking back the seized documents to exclude the possibility of their destruction.

Despite that, the petitioner has now learnt that the Settlement Commission is now considering the cases of Sahara and Birla for settlement and this has prompted the petitioner organisation to approach the Supreme Court so that the evidence secured during the raids can be preserved.

“It is learnt that the cases of Sahara and Birla groups are now being actively considered in the Settlement Commission for settlement. Hence, there is an urgent need for this Hon’ble Court to direct the authorities concerned to immediately produce the entire evidence before this Hon’ble Court so that it can be preserved.”

The following prayers have been made by Common Cause:

Direct the CBI, the CBDT and the CVC to produce the records and the seized material recovered in the raids on the Sahara group and the Aditya Birla group before this Hon’ble Court, and direct the said authorities not to return the seized documents to the business groups concerned.

Direct the constitution of an SIT to inquire and thoroughly investigate the evidence gathered in the said raids and also the role played by Respondent No. 2 in the apparent miscarriage of investigation in this matter.”