December 14, 2016 8:15:01 pm
The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked an NGO to bring clinching evidence to back its charges of graft against then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. “You must bring very firm and clear material,” the bench of Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar and Justice Arun Mishra told NGO Common Cause’s counsel Prashant Bhushan, reminding him that “we are dealing with a very high functionary”.
“We will tell you the difficulty… We are dealing with a very high functionary. It becomes very difficult for the high functionary to function when aspersions are cast on him,” said the bench as it adjourned the matter for further hearing on Friday. Bhushan sought more time to file documents in support of his contention and wondered as to what the difficulty was in granting him more time.
Justice Khehar said that in the course of the last hearing of the matter, senior counsel Shanti Bhushan and Ram Jehtmalani had sought a few days’ time and “we gave them time till December 11 and today they are not there and you want more time. Jethmalani had said that ‘it’ (evidence) was in his possession”.
“This is becoming very abnormal. What we have said to the counsel (on last hearing) if he has smallest material, we will see it,” Justice Khehar told Bhushan, asking him how can a constitutional authority function like this. “It is very easy (to level allegations)… it is not fair.”
As Prashant Bhushan said that Jethmalani has gone abroad, senior counsel C.A. Sundaram, appearing for the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, said that he had met Jethmalani in the morning in the corridor of the Supreme Court.
Telling Bhushan that he could not make allegations without evidence backing it, Justice Misra said: “You are making allegations against the Prime Minister of the country.”
Common Cause had sought investigation by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into alleged pay-offs by two corporate entities to several politicians and public functionaries purportedly for advancing their business interests.
Seeking the court’s intervention, the NGO described the matter as “extremely serious” where the “actionable evidence gathered in the raids on… (two corporate entities)… concerning corruption and bribing of important public functionaries was given a quiet burial by the Income Tax Department and the CBI”.
In the case of one corporate entity, the Central Bureau of Investigation conducted searches on October 15, 2013, and in the case of the second corporate entity, the Income Tax Department carried out raids on November 22, 2014.
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