Bofors case trial on

Print edition : July 20, 2002

THE Supreme Court's stay of the Delhi High Court judgment quashing the charge-sheet against the three Hinduja brothers in the Bofors pay-offs case has been met with a sigh of relief by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The country's premier investigative agency had been embarrassed no end after Justice R.S. Sodhi quashed the charge-sheet filed against the Europe-based Hinduja brothers, Srichand, Gopichand and Prakash Chand, on the grounds that the CBI had not taken the mandatory clearance from the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) prior to filing the charge-sheet.

The December 18, 1997 judgment of the Supreme Court in the Vineet Narain case had said that "the CBI shall report to the CVC about cases taken up by it for investigation; progress of investigations; cases in which charge-sheet are filed and the progress". However, the Supreme Court's July 12 order has ensured that the CBI can continue to function as before. "We are convinced that this (High Court) judgment is completely unsustainable. If such judgments are not stayed, no prosecution will succeed," observed the three-Judge Bench comprising Chief Justice B.N. Kirpal and Justices K.G. Balakrishnan and Arijit Pasayat. The order also ensured that the trial proceedings against the Hinduja brothers can resume and continue as before.

In its special leave petition (SLP) filed on June 27 the CBI asked the apex court to set aside the June 10 order of the High Court. The agency argued that the Supreme Court's guidelines had not specified that the CBI had to obtain the clearance of the CVC before filing a charge-sheet for offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act. CBI spokesperson S.M. Khan said: "We made a plea that if this judgment remains, it would affect a whole lot of CBI cases because we do not take the sanction of the CVC before filing a charge-sheet. One of the grounds in the SLP was that other cases would be affected by this judgment, so the Supreme Court stayed this order."

The CBI argued that if the High Court order was not set aside, the CVC would have the power to interfere in and impede cases and prevent the filing of charge-sheets in courts. What gave a boost to the CBI's stand was the CVC's June 20 appeal against the High Court judgment. It said that only its prior sanction was required to file charge-sheets in the case of public servants. In its SLP the CBI said that the High Court had overlooked the basic scheme of law in force, where once an investigation had begun it was incumbent upon the investigating agency to file a report in the court. In filing this report, no person or authority had the right to interfere in the working of the agency. The CBI said that the High Court, without any allegation, much less material, had erred in its order. It could not be unmindful of the fact that the CBI had been put under a cloud. The procedure was meant to further the ends of justice and not frustrate it, the agency said.

The court has directed the Hinduja brothers to file their replies to the CBI's SLP before July 29, when the matter will be heard again. For the time being, the Hinduja brothers, who are counted amongst the richest Indians in the world, have received a major setback.

Naunidhi Kaur

TWO police officers from Tamil Nadu, K. Radhakrishnan, Inspector-General of Police (Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption), and Prateep Philip, Deputy I.G. (CID Intelligence), will receive the Queen's Award for innovation in police training and development. They are among five officers who have been selected for the British award, for which police officers in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries were considered. Under the award scheme, which was instituted in November 2001, each awardee will receive &pound15,000 (about Rs.11.25 lakhs).

The British High Commission says in a press statement that the award recognises achievements in harnessing new technology to deliver training and life-long learning. The award money is to help implement the selected projects over the period of a year. The project reports will be used by the British government to evaluate the degree of success of the projects so that some of those ideas could be adopted for use in other forces.

Both Radhakrishnan and Prateep Philip belong to the Indian Police Service (IPS). Radhakrishnan won the award for his project on the role of web-based e-training in dispute resolution for all-women police stations. The project will help officers of all-women police units who deal with cases relating to domestic violence and dowry but have limited access to training. The Police Training College in Chennai will use web-based technology to provide training to officers in all-women police stations.

Prateep Philip won the award for his project 'Multimedia Training Centre for Friends of Police', which is intended to encourage better interface between the public and the police by providing training in community policing for both police officers and the community. The other winners of the award are Mary Vaughan and Ann Bicknell of West Mercia Police for their project, called Integration and Evaluation of e-learning, and Michael Thompson of Centrex, Durham, for his project entitled Fingerprint Examiner and Crime Scene Examiner e-learning.

Congratulating the winners, British Home Office Minister John Denham said that the successful implementation of these projects would benefit police training and development and improve police performance.

Radhakrishnan earned a name for himself when he was posted as Commissioner of Police in Coimbatore. He restored peace in the town after a series of bomb blasts, set off by the Islamic fundamentalist organisation Al-Umma on February 14, 1998, killed 63 persons. In partnership with civil society, he restored religious harmony and tranquillity to Coimbatore.

Philip was selected earlier this year from South India to take part in the Wilton Park South Asia Forum in the U.K. to discuss "Governance and local development". In another programme, he had spent time with the West Midlands Police to learn about community policing initiatives and the relevant systems that were in place in the U.K. He met their hi-tech crime detection unit and discussed computer crime investigation and ways to combat child abuse through the Internet.

T.S. Subramanian

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