Supreme Court to pronounce order on ED officer probing Aircel-Maxis case accused of possessing disproportionate assets

The Supreme Court will at 2 pm on Wednesday pronounce the order on Enforcement Directorate (ED) officer Dr Rajeshwar Singh who is investigating P Chidambaram in the Aircel-Maxis case.

Singh, who is probing the money laundering case, had petitioned in the Supreme Court that he is being hounded by frivolous allegations by proxies who hold "vested interests" in the high-profile 2G spectrum allocation case. Singh, who is ED joint director, had also filed a criminal contempt plea before the court last week against Rajneesh Kapur who had recently moved the apex court against him, alleging that Singh possessed disproportionate assets. The apex court had admitted Kapur's PIL that also sought a probe against the ED officer.

 Supreme Court to pronounce order on ED officer probing Aircel-Maxis case accused of possessing disproportionate assets

File image of P Chidambaram and Karti Chidambaram. PTI

Singh, nominated by the top court as the lead ED investigating officer in the 2G case few years ago, charged in his petition that his probe has "irked a sizeable number of individuals, corporate, lobbyists and corrupt and dishonest persons who have time and again filed false, frivolous and motivated complaints against him". He said that the fresh PIL against him was nothing but a bunch of old and unsuccessful allegations against him and are a "brazen attempt to delay the completion of 2G spectrum case and the Aircel-Maxis case".

He also said that the allegations levelled against him are not new as "no new evidence has been filed" adding that the allegations of improper conduct and disproportionate assets, filed in the PIL recently, were made in a similar fashion about 7 years ago also and his organisation (ED), the CBI and the CVC had given him a clean chit after a probe was conducted. The Supreme Court had then ordered that no interference should be made by anyone in the functioning of the officers who are probing the 2G case, including Singh and had also issued a contempt notice.

The ED officer charged that his reputation has "suffered a grave attack ever since he had been investigating the 2G scam and related investigations." Singh said that the apex court's order in March to finish probe in the Aircel-Maxis case in six months time is the trigger for the latest allegations of misconduct being levelled against him. "This order is probably the reason for filing such a frivolous petition by the contemnor (Kapur) who is acting as proxy of some vested interests with the sole motive to obstruct the justice delivery system and frustrate the proper functioning and administration of duties by the petitioner in utter disregard to the orders passed by this court (SC)," he said. He said that the CBI and CVC have also examined these complaints in the past and have found them to be "frivolous".

"It is thus clear and apparent that the sole motive of the contemnor (Kapur), by acting as a proxy to those holding vested interests, is to somehow scuttle, delay and frustrate the ongoing investigation being carried out by the petitioner in the Aircel-Maxis case and delay the completion of the investigation by the petitioner," he said.

The ED had recently filed a charge sheet against former finance minister P Chidambaram's son Karti in the Aircel-Maxis case and has twice questioned and recorded the statement of the senior Chidambaram. It has, in the past, also questioned senior officials of the Union finance ministry and the now defunct Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) in connection with this case.

Meanwhile, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy had also filed a plea in the apex court as he sought to implead himself in the defence of the ED officer in light of the latest complaint. A vacation bench of justices S Abdul Nazeer and Indu Malhotra had subsequently asked Swamy to mention the matter on 25 June before another bench as Justice Malhotra recused herself from hearing in the matter without assigning any reason.

Kapur in his petition had said that certain orders have been passed by the apex court protecting Singh, against any action by any of the authorities. It was contended in the petition that earlier orders of apex court can apply only against any mala fide or frivolous complaints but there cannot be absolute bar against action for the criminal acts of the officer, which may be seen by the apex court itself by any independent mechanism.

Swamy, who had earlier moved the top court for expeditious investigation in the Aircel-Maxis case, has sought court's direction for making himself as a party in the fresh plea filed by Kapur against the ED official. The matter was on Tuesday mentioned before the bench by Swamy who said that the apex court had in March "expressed anxiety" that the probe in the 2G spectrum cases, including Aircel-Maxis deal, was getting delayed.

He said that the court had on 12 March observed that some "invisible persons" were "blocking" the probe in these cases and had given six months time to CBI and ED to complete their investigation. "This fresh petition (against Singh) will delay the investigation. There are anonymous letters against the investigation officer (Singh)," Swamy told the bench, adding, "I may be permitted to intervene in the matter".

Senior advocate RS Suri, appearing for Singh, told the bench that the ED officer has also filed a contempt petition in the matter and it should also be heard by the court. He said the top court had on 12 March given six months time to the agencies to complete the probe in these cases and one charge sheet has already been filed while the ED was in the process of filing another charge sheet. Suri claimed that a similar issue had cropped up before the apex court about seven years ago when a bench headed by then top court judge, Justice (retd) GS Singhvi, was seized of the matter. He said the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and CBI had then given clean chit to Singh when similar averments regarding alleged disproportionate assets were made against him. He alleged that Singh has filed a contempt petition as false facts have been made out in the plea filed against him and urged the bench to list the matter for hearing on Wednesday.

Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that the main matter would come up for hearing on 3 July and the pleas filed by Swamy and Singh should also be heard along with it. "We will not decide the main matter. Let us see the application," the bench observed and posted the pleas filed by Swamy and Singh for hearing on Wednesday.

During the hearing, Swamy said that Kapur's petition had averments similar to what was stated in 2011 and apex court had dealt with those "scurrilous complaints" in its 6 May, 2011 order in the 2G spectrum scam case. He said the apex court had then asked the officer to continue. "All I want is that the ED officer should be allowed to continue till probe in the Aircel-Maxis deal case is over within the six-month deadline, as directed by the apex court on 12 March," Swamy said.

The BJP leader said he also wanted to produce some evidence to show that the averments made in the writ petition were scurrilous in nature and submitted a report of a Hindi newspaper. The bench told Swamy that one part of his prayer was for impleading himself to the writ petition filed by petitioner Kapur, while the other part dealt with allowing the officer to continue till the probe is completed. "Yes, my Lord. That's my prayer," Swamy replied. The bench then found that neither Kapur, nor his counsel were present and asked Swamy whether the copy of his application was served upon the petitioner or not. Swamy said the copy was served, but still no one has appeared on behalf of Kapur. "Then we will take up the matter tomorrow and by then you serve the copy of application to him or his counsel and even personally inform him for appearing on Wednesday," the bench said.

With inpus from PTI

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Updated Date: Jun 27, 2018 12:39:04 IST