CURRENT FOCUS

In a major victory for Common Cause, the Supreme Court on Aug 2, 2017, imposed a hundred percent penalty on mining companies indulging in illegal mining on account of lack of forest and environment clearances, mining outside lease/permitted area and for mining in excess of what has been allowed.

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ILLICIT PAYOUTS TO POLITICIANS: BIRLA/SAHARA DIARIES

The Apex Court has rejected the demand for a probe into bribes allegedly paid to politicians mentioned in the  Birla Sahara diaries, saying it would be dangerous for democracy to order a probe on the basis of loose sheets inadmissible as evidence.

Common Cause had approached the Supreme Court regarding bribes paid to prominent politicians by corporate groups. It is feared that the groups, whose premises were raided by the CBI and the Income Tax Department in 2013 and 2014, might go for ‘settlement’ of their cases, amounting to a quite burial of crucial evidence. The Interim Application was filed in our pending petition challenging arbitrary appointment of the CVC.

The IA sought to highlight this burial of evidence as a proof of the doubtful role of the current CVC who held prominent positions as the Chairperson of the Central Board of Direct Taxation (CBDT) and Advisor to the Supreme Court Appointed SIT on Black Money before being appointed as the CVC in 2015.

The IA, filed on  November 15, 2016 through its counsel Prashant Bhushan, prays for a thorough investigation and further action on the Sahara/Birla documents -- allegedly detailing illicit payouts to political functionaries -- recovered by the authorities in their raids. Court’s intervention is also sought to preclude any settlement of the corporate groups with the IT Department and returning of the records to the parties in order to prevent destruction of evidence.

The Application alleges that despite sufficient evidence of commission of offences of corruption, bribery, possession of black money, disproportionate assets, and tax violations, both the CBI and the IT Department did not take appropriate action by conducting a thorough scrutiny of their contents.

The IA states that the documents ought to have been shared by the IT Department with the CBI & the SIT on Black Money, since the matter was not limited to Income Tax violations, but included bribery, corruption and possession of black money. After coming in possession of the documents, the Petitioners’ counsel, had addressed letters to the SIT on Black Money, the CVC, the CBI and the CBDT seeking a thorough investigation into the matter. He requested the Chairperson, Income Tax Settlement Commission, on Nov 8, 2016 not to allow any settlement in the cases and to direct the retention of all the seized records with the authorities, so that the evidence gathered could be investigated. 

In a hearing held on December 14, the Supreme Court has asked the petitioner's counsel to bring clinching evidence to back its charges of graft against then Gujarat Chief Minister, without which it could not order a probe.The court had previously too, refused to order a probe in the hearing held on  November 25, in this matter.