2014: SC put to task Centre, CBI, BCCI & Sahara for their acts
New Delhi: Sending Sahara chief Subrata Roy to jail, quashing flawed coal block allocations, putting the Centre on tenterhooks in black money case and edging of cricket czar N Srinivasan kept busy in 2014 the Supreme Court which in a historic order removed outgoing CBI boss Ranjit Singh from 2G spectrum scam cases for his misdemeanour.
Sinha faced the biggest embarrassment in the twilight of his professional career as the court not only removed him from 2G scam cases but also observed that the charge against him of protecting some accused appeared to be “prima facie credible” and “required to be accepted”.
Before this unprecedented order, the apex court had also asked him to keep away from the probe of Coalgate in the wake of surfacing of a guest register of his residence which had names of lobbyist and accused of high-profile cases like 2G and coal scam visiting him.
The silver lining for CBI, which has been facing flak for its probe in several high-profile cases, was the long awaited ruling by a constitution bench which struck down the provision in the law mandating prior sanction of competent authority to probe and prosecute officials above the joint secretary level which had cropped up repeatedly during the coalgate matters.
The year also saw the apex court cancelling “fatally flawed” coal block allocations since 1993 and not mincing words in condemning the screening committee decisions, endorsed by all ruling political parties.
It put the curtains down on the fate of 214 out of 218 coal blocks and consequential investments of around Rs 2 lakh crore and subsequent attempts of big corporates to wriggle out also proved futile as it shot them down.
The burning issue and Narendra Modi government’s pre-poll plank of bringing black money stashed in tax heavens also kept busy the top court which first shot down the last-ditch effort made by the outgoing UPA-II regime to get away with its order on SIT on May 16, the day when the NDA emerged winner in the general election.
There was hardly any fortnight in the entire year when Sahara chief Roy did not file one or another plea in the apex court. He along with two directors of the firm was sent to jail on March four for not complying with its order on refunding around Rs 20,000 crore of investors’ money.
It trashed Roy’s subsequent plea against his detention.
However, one of judges recused after delivering a hard-hitting verdict. Currently, another bench is hearing his pleas on repayment of money to SEBI for getting out of the jail.
Betting row plaguing BCCI’s show case event, the Indian Premier League (IPL), involvement of Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan in it and consequential charge of conflict of interest together ensured that the cricket administrator remained the BCCI president-in-exile for major part of 2014.
The court, which has now reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas including that of Cricket Association of Bihar, has said that it may consider forming a panel to cleanse cricket and would also like to look into the controversial BCCI amendment 6.2.4 that had enabled an administrator like Srinivasan to own a IPL team. It also asked the BCCI to defer its polls till January end.
However, one of the landmark verdicts which will go down in the annals of Supreme Court history was the judgement of the Constitution Bench which ruled that “inordinate and inexplicable” delay in deciding mercy plea of death row convicts can be a ground for commuting their sentence.
The verdict reignited the hope for life among 15 condemned prisoners, including killers of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who have been living in jails across the country for years in darkness under the constant lurking fear of being executed for their sins.
In another path-breaking verdict, the court granted legal recognition to transgenders or eunuchs as third category of gender and asked the Centre and states to treat them as socially and educationally backward classes to extend quota.
However, LGBT (Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community were not successful as their review plea against criminalising gay sex among consenting adults in the country was dismissed and the curative petition was yet to be decided.
The issue which came under international glare was about murder accused Italian marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone as the apex court took a tough stand by refusing their pleas seeking extension of stay in Italy on health ground and permission to visit the home country for Christmas respectively.
The court asked them to respect the “Indian laws also” following which they withdrew their applications.
The judiciary also had a critical phase during 2014 as the apex court had to deal with allegations of sexual harassment levelled against its former judge and a judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
The apex court initiated hearing in the case against its former judge, Justice Swatanter Kumar who is the Chairperson of National Green Tribunal by issuing notice to him on a plea of a former law intern.
Later, it said the plea would be heard by a three-judge bench. Justice Kumar denied the allegations and said that the apex court, in its full court resolution of December 5, 2013, had held that no complaint can be entertained by the Supreme Court against its retired judges.
It also trashed a plea, filed in the wake of CJI P Sathasivam assuming the role of Kerala governor after his retirement, seeking a provision of cooling off period for judges before they take any assignments.
The apex court, on last working day before the Christmas break, took serious note of sexual harassment allegation of a former woman judicial officer against a sitting judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court and found fault with constitution of a two-judge panel formed by the High Court Chief Justice.
It “divested” the HC judge of administrative and supervisory authority and quashed a two-judge panel set up by the HC Chief Justice to probe his alleged misconduct. It also said the CJI may form a fresh panel to look into the issue.
Introduction of Sanskrit and other Modern Indian language in middle of academic session as third language to replace German in Kendriya Vidayalayas created a political storm which was finally settled in the court which asked the Centre to protect the interest of the students.
The issue of cleaning holy river Ganga, a much publicised agenda of the NDA government, suddenly hogged centrestage in the court which has been hearing a PIL for over two decades.
The Centre placed a blueprint of short, medium and long- term measures, spread over 18 years and thousands of crores of rupees of investment to restore the glory of the holy river.
The row over bid to appoint Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) and Vigilance Commissioner by the NDA government also came under the scanner of the apex court which allowed it to continue with its selection processes but asked it to take it prior “leave” before going ahead with their appointment.
Among the politicians, former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, got interim bail in the assets case which was later extended by four months by the court which also asked the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court to set up a special bench to decide her plea expeditiously within three months.
However, before her conviction by a trial court in Karnataka, the 66-year-old AIADMK supremo made several attempts to stall the criminal proceedings.
The activities of self-styled godmen like Asaram Bapu and Nithyanand also came under the scanner of the apex court which did not give relief to them in rape cases.
During the year, the court kept monitoring probes being conducted by CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in 2G cases and coalgate.
New CBI Director Anil Sinha was allowed to re-assume the supervisory roles in 2G case, a power which was taken away from his predecessor Sinha merely 12 days before his retirement.
The court also asked the CBI to not to file any closure report in coalgate cases without its prior sanction. However, it trashed the plea that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was also in charge of Coal Ministry for sometime, be allowed to be quizzed along with other coal ministers who had been at the helm of affairs since 1993.
PTI SJK RKS ZMN