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Essar case: Petitioner has touched some raw nerves, says Supreme Court

A bench of Justices T S Thakur and Kurian Joseph gave them six weeks to submit counter affidavits, spelling out their stand on the issues raised in the PIL filed by NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL).

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi |
November 27, 2015 1:27:41 am
NRHM, NRHM scam, Supreme Court, Supreme court NRHM, National Rural Health Mission, CBI, Nation news Supreme Court of India.

Observing that some “raw nerves” seem to have been touched, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre and the CBI to clarify their stand on a PIL seeking probe into an alleged unholy nexus of the Essar Group with politicians, bureaucrats and journalists to promote its business interests.

A bench of Justices T S Thakur and Kurian Joseph gave them six weeks to submit counter affidavits, spelling out their stand on the issues raised in the PIL filed by NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL).

The PIL was filed after The Indian Express reported in February how a “whistleblower” had decided to go public with Essar Group’s internal company communications — the correspondence are attached to the petition as instances of alleged impropriety.

“It seems you (petitioner) have touched some raw nerves here,” remarked the bench as CPIL’s counsel Prashant Bhushan elaborated how Essar’s internal communications revealed that the company purportedly reserved jobs for VIP referrals, besides offering gifts and other favours to politicians, bureaucrats and journalists.

The bench told Bhushan it would wait till the Centre and the CBI put forth their stand on the contentions. The first issue that they require to address in their affidavits is whether a CBI probe should be ordered to look into alleged complicity adversely impacting matters of public policy, as disclosed by the leaked internal communications. The Centre also needs to respond on framing guidelines to regulate relationships of big corporate groups with individuals in positions of power. The bench also clarified Thursday that it would give hearing to everyone, who is or is likely to be affected by these proceedings.

“Reputation may be affected by these proceedings. Those whose names are there in the emails have a right to come to this court and say that they have been unnecessarily dragged into it. This court is also a public platform. If somebody’s reputation and job is at stake, why cannot he or she be heard by us?” the bench said.

The observation came as the court allowed a woman journalist to be added as a party to the case. Appearing for her, senior advocate Salman Khurshid said she lost her job after one of the leaked emails showed she allegedly got some favours from the Essar Group. “Let there be an inquiry against all journalists,” Khurshid said.

Fixing the case for hearing on March 11, 2016, the bench said it would allow her and also others, who may be affected by the proceedings, to adduce documents and file replies for a hearing.

As reported by The Indian Express on Thursday, Essar has in its reply affidavit said there is “nothing illegal or improper” in politicians and bureaucrats making job requests and that some small favours to government servants are “common courtesies extended by corporate houses”.

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