The apparent reason: It wants directions from the Supreme Court about which court it should file its chargesheet.
The ED claims it is ready with the chargesheet, but the court in Hyderabad that is currently trying Raju and his other co-accused is not a ‘competent’ court under Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002. The Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI’s) case is being heard by an Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate and is not designated as Special Court.
The ED stated this in an application filed with the Supreme Court on 11 May 2011. And this application has never been posted before any bench of the Supreme Court to date. Taking this as an invitation to do nothing, the ED is sitting on its chargesheet against Ramalinga Raju.
Raju, erstwhile promoter of Satyam Computer Services, had confessed in January 2009 that he had falsified the company’s accounts and misled shareholders. The CBI subsequently arrested him and nine others for the self-confessed fraud and filed its first chargesheet in 2009 itself.
But three-and-a-half years after the event, the ED is yet to file a chargesheet. Instead, it has filed an application with the Supreme Court seeking directions/clarifications on the issue of which is the competent court to file its chargesheet in.
ED sources contend that they have “provisionally” attached a large number of Ramalinga Raju properties valued at about Rs 247 crore. They argue that they have also completed investigations and are ready to prosecute Ramalinga Raju and several others who allegedly indulged in money laundering activities. But the trial for scheduled offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act can be held only at an appropriate special court designated under the said Act and no other, they argue.
“If both the offences, that is, the scheduled offence and the offence of money laundering, are not tried by a Special Court constituted under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, it would lead to a situation where the trial will proceed not as per the procedure established by the Prevention of Money Laundering Act,” the ED’s application argued.
By casting doubts on the mandate of the present Satyam court in Hyderabad, the ED could well have provided a ‘potent’ weapon to Ramalinga Raju’s lawyers to contest the entire trial in the Satyam case which has been held in the court of the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate BVLN Chakravarthi. Raju’s lawyers could well claim that the trial proceedings are null and void on the ground that the Hyderabad court had no mandate to handle this case.
Interestingly, Ramalinga Raju’s lawyers had already flagged this issue in Chakravarthi’s court and later with the Andhra Pradesh High Court, arguing that a wrong court had been assigned the Satyam trial in the name of speeding it up. But, again for strange reasons, the matter never came up for the court’s observations. Even the Supreme Court is not aware of it, as the ED’s application was never put up before the bench.
The ED seems to have slept over its own application, as it could have asked the Supreme Court for its order earlier. But it didn’t do so and failed to file a chargesheet. One wouldn’t be surprised if Ramalinga Raju’s lawyers appear to be waiting for the right time to strike.
Sources in the CBI, however, argue that the Hyderabad court is the right one for hearing the CBI case against Ramalinga Raju because he is not charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act. He has only been charged under the Indian Penal Code and thus an additional chief metropolitan magistrate has mandate over this case. “I don’t think there is any dispute. ED can easily approach the special designated court,’’ a senior official in the law ministry told Firstpost.
On the contrary, the ED’s application in the Supreme Court, after all these years, cannot but have helped Ramalinga Raju’s case. It even goes on to suggest that the present Satyam court may hold a trial and announce a conviction, but the same accused cannot be tried again for the same offence if the present court was found not to have ‘competent jurisdiction’.
“Under section 300(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, a person who has once been tried by a court of competent jurisdiction for an offence and convicted or acquitted of such offence shall, while such conviction or acquittal remains in force, not be liable to be tried again for the same offence, nor on the same facts for any other offence for which a different charge from the one made against him might have been made under sub-section (1) of section 221 of CrPC or for which he might have been convicted under sub-section (2) thereof,’’ the ED contends.
This is why the ED has requested the Supreme Court to pass an order permitting the Union government to approach the AP High Court and request it to designate and notify the present court of the Additional Sessions Judge as a Special Court under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.
ED Assistant Director S Bhatnagar had filed this application in the CBI vs B Ramalinga Raju case in May 2011, when the CBI had moved a special leave petition to oppose the AP High Court’s order to grant bail to Ramalinga Raju. The Supreme Court had finally cancelled Raju’s bail and had directed the trial court to take up the case on a day-to-day basis and conclude the trial of this case on or before 31 July 2011.
Nearly a year has lapsed since the Supreme Court deadline; ED has not even launched its trial in the Satyam case over the ‘mandate’ issue. And Ramalinga Raju’s lawyers are waiting to pounce on the opportunity created by ED at an appropriate time.