The Supreme Court refused to order a probe into alleged huge payoffs to politicians, including the then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, purportedly by big business houses and termed the documents produced by lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan as “zero”, “fictitious” and “not authentic”.
Bhushan had claimed that the documents, allegedly seized by the I-T department during raids on Sahara and Birla groups, were delivered to him by a whistleblower. He had given them to an NGO ‘Common Cause’, which had filed a PIL seeking a probe into the alleged payoffs.
Appearing for Common Cause, advocate Shanti Bhushan told a bench of Justice J S Khehar and Justice Arun Mishra that the documents were signed by independent witnesses as documents belonging to the business groups.
But the bench trashed the documents. “According to a judgment of the Supreme Court, Sahara group’s documents are not genuine and are fictitious… We cannot start an investigation just like that on the documents you have produced,” the bench said.
When Bhushan moved from Sahara to the Birla group and tried to show the amounts purportedly paid to politicians, whose names were mentioned in the documents, the bench said a corrupt person could mention the name of any high profile personality to divert attention.The bench said, “We are not shying away from hearing the case but something authentic must be placed before us… Documents seized from the premises of Birla and Sahara groups are nothing. These are zero. You must bring credible evidence”. However, Bhushan was given time till December 14 to gather credible evidence. “If you do not find any, then take back the petition,” the bench said.
Common Cause had sought the setting up of an SIT to probe the alleged payoffs.
“The applicant seeks the SC’s intervention in an extremely serious matter where actionable evidence gathered in income tax raids on Sahara group and Birla group companies concerning corruption and bribing of important public functionaries was given a quiet burial by the income tax department and CBI,” the petition said.
The NGO held CVC K V Chaudhary responsible for the inaction and sought a probe. “Before being appointed as CBDT chairperson, he was member (investigation) in CBDT from August 2012 to August 2014. He retired in November 2014 and was appointed adviser to the SIT on black money, in which capacity he continued to work till June 2015 when the government appointed him as CVC,” the NGO said.
Documents seized during the raid in connection with the coal scam “reportedly revealed massive bribery of politicians and officials of various ministries by Aditya Birla group over years. Although documents seized indicated commission of corruption, bribery, possession of black money, disproportionate assets and I-T violations, the CBI, instead of conducting a thorough inquiry, simply transferred the highly incriminating documents to the I-T department,” the petition said.
“The records seized during search operations at Delhi revealed payment of Rs 7.08 crore made from January 9, 2012, to February 2, 2012. It is to be noted that as many as 13 projects of Aditya Birla group companies were cleared between November 8, 2011 and June 17, 2013,” it alleged.