The Delhi high court has held that the appointments of Special Public Prosecutor and Additional Solicitor General -- to file and conduct the Central Bureau of Investigation appeal against the acquittal of the accused in the 2G spectrum allocation case -- is in consonance with law.
The high court referred to the Supreme Court's March 12, 2018 order dismissing a plea challenging the appointment of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta in place of senior advocate Anand Grover to appear in appeals arising out of 2G cases.
"The appointment of Sanjeev Bhandari, SPP to file the leave to appeal and Sanjay Jain, ASG to conduct the same, is in consonance with law," Justice Brijesh Sethi, said.
"The order of the Hon'ble Apex Court dated March 12, 2018 in...has dispelled all the doubts and has categorically stated that SPP in 2G case was appointed for the purpose of conducting trials only before the special judge and central government was free to appoint anyone post trial," he said in the order which was passed on Monday and made available on Tuesday.
The high court's order came on a plea by acquitted individual and Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd director Asif Balwa that the CBI has not placed on record the mandatory authority under the provisions of the CrPC.
Balwa also challenged the filing of the appeal under the signatures of advocate Sanjeev Bhandari with the SPP stamp.
In 2G cases, the SPP is appointed by way of a specific notification. An earlier notification was issued for the trial, which was superseded by a February 2018 notification appointing Tushar Mehta (now Solicitor General) to act as a SPP.
"The notification was specific to the 2G cases and therefore, the appeal filed itself was without any authority and the CBI ought to clarify the same before the court," his counsel Vijay Aggarwal had contended.
The issue was also raised by various other individuals including former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura.
ASG Jain had submitted that filing of such applications which are frivolous in nature at this stage was nothing else but an abuse of the process of law and wastage of judicial time.
The high court perused the March 6, 2014, notification issued by the Central government which clearly showed appointment of Bhandari as SPP for CBI, for the purpose of conducting appeals and revisions.
It said ASG Jain has also placed on record the communication of January 17, 2018 of the central government opining that it was a fit case to file an appeal and also the decision to engage Tushar Mehta, the then ASG and now SG, to represent the 2G case.
The court noted that ASG Jain has also placed on record May 6, 2019 notification by which he was appointed as SPP to conduct prosecution, appeal or revision or other proceedings arising out of the cases related to 2G spectrum cases before 2G trial court and appellate or revisional court.
Justice Sethi, who would demit the office on November 30, has on Monday released the 2G appeals from his board due to paucity of time and now it will be heard by a new bench from December 1.
The high court had commenced day-to-day hearing on CBI's 'leave to appeal' against the acquittal of all the individuals and firms. After finishing submissions in the CBI case, the high court would take up the ED's money laundering case in which also all the accused were acquitted by the special court.
However, the acquitted individuals and firms kept filing various applications and petitions in between.
Leave to appeal is a formal permission granted by a court to a party to challenge a decision in a higher court.
A special court on December 21, 2017 had acquitted Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and others in CBI and ED cases related to the scam. It had acquitted 17 others, including DMK supremo M Karunanidhi's wife Dayalu Ammal, Vinod Goenka, Asif Balwa, film producer Karim Morani, P Amirtham and Sharad Kumar, director of Kalaignar TV in the ED case.
On the same day, the trial court had also acquitted Behura, Chandolia, Unitech Ltd MD Sanjay Chandra and three top executives of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group -- Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair -- in the CBI's 2G case.
Swan Telecom promoters Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka and directors of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd Asif Balwa and Rajiv Agarwal were also acquitted in the CBI case.
The CBI and the Enforcement Directorate have challenged in the high court the acquittal of all the individuals and companies in the 2G scam corruption and money laundering cases by the trial court.
The CBI had also filed an appeal challenging the acquittal of Essar Group promoters Ravi Kant Ruia and Anshuman Ruia and six others in a separate case arising out of the 2G scam probe.