Sahara, Birla papers: SC says don’t see smallest material to back charge

Prashant Bhushan relied upon some purported email communications of officers to allege that bribes were paid to the then Gujarat CM and others.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Published:December 15, 2016 4:49 am
kashmir, kashmir unrest, kashmir pellet firing, pellet guns, burhan wani killing, burhan wani protest, supreme court, sc pellet, indian express news, india news The bench said it does not want to keep the matter pending and asked Bhushan to adduce reliable materials by December 16. (File Photo)

The Supreme Court Wednesday cautioned an NGO against making unsubstantiated allegations against constitutional functionaries, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and observed that it would not order an inquiry on the basis of Income Tax papers relating to raids at Aditya Birla Group and Sahara companies unless there was credible material to suggest illegal payoffs to politicians.

“This is becoming very abnormal for us. What we told you (petitioner)… give us smallest material. We will deal with it… How will a constitutional authority function if you are going to make such allegations? We don’t see even the smallest material to substantiate your accusations,” a bench of Justices J S Khehar and Arun Mishra told advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Common Cause.

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Bhushan, however, relied upon some purported email communications of officers of Aditya Birla and Sahara groups to allege that bribes were paid to the then Gujarat Chief Minister and others.

But the bench told him: “You are only making aspersions… and aspersions create false perception. How will constitutional functionaries work if such aspersions are cast without any material? We will certainly act but there has to be some material first.”

The bench said it does not want to keep the matter pending and asked Bhushan to adduce reliable materials by December 16. Bhushan, on his part, complained about not getting sufficient time for placing on record the relevant documents.

“No. It is not unreasonable as you are dealing with very high functionaries. You bring very firm and very clear material. You bring it, we have no difficulty,” the court said, adding it has a settled proposition that a petition must have some material.

When Bhushan questioned the hurriedness with which the court wants to deal with the matter, the bench told him that it is very difficult for a person to function against whom aspersions are made. The court also recalled that on November 25, it had asked for credible material before the petition could be admitted.

On November 25, the bench had maintained that ordering an investigation based merely on unverified entries made in a diary or on a computer would have “far-reaching” consequences since “unscrupulous people” could bring the entire world, and even the Prime Minister, under a cloud by simply recording entries of payoffs.

The court had said that documents adduced by NGO ‘Common Cause’ were neither authentic nor credible enough for an inquiry to be launched into the veracity of the entries on payments allegedly made to various politicians.

Demanding a court-monitored probe by a special investigation team, the NGO had alleged a “cover-up” following raids conducted by the Income Tax Department against Aditya Birla Group companies in October 2013 and on the Sahara India Group in November 2014.