The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the plea for a court-monitored SIT probe into bribery allegations against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the basis of documents seized during the raids in business houses – Sahara and Birla-- on the ground they had no evidentiary value.
The case based on “random materials” like loose sheets, papers, e-mail printouts is “merit less” as they are “inadmissible materials” having “no evidentiary value under the law” to order registration of FIR and investigation, more so against the high constitutional functionaries, whose names are mentioned in the documents which have been held as prima facie “fabricated” by income tax settlement commission, the court said.
The high-voltage hearing was conducted by a new bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy which said “courts have to be on guard” while dealing with matters demanding probe against high functionaries as the case in hand was devoid of any “cogent” material or “independent evidence corroborating materials” to order an investigation.
The new bench was constituted as Prashant Bhushan, a lawyer for the Common Cause, had sought recusal of the then Chief Justice of India-designate, Justice J S Khehar, on the ground that his file for elevation for CJI was pending with the executive headed by the Prime Minister.
“There must be some cogent, reliable and admissible evidence”. Otherwise, the process of law can be abused to achieve ulterior goals,” the court observed dismissing the NGO’s plea.
Dissatisfied with the loose sheets, which were claimed to be part of the diary entries of the Sahara Group and Aditya Birla Group, containing entries like “Gujarat CM” and other politicians, the bench said materials placed on record by the NGO, Common Cause were not maintained by the two business housed in the regular course of business.
Another bench of the court had earlier termed the loose sheets and other material “zero material” to order an investigation.
“In view of the materials placed on record and peculiarity of the facts and circumstances, no case is made out on merits to direct investigation against various political functionaries, officers etc. The interim applications are found to be meritless and are dismissed,” the bench said.
The bench also referred to the order passed by the Income Tax Settlement Commission in the Sahara group matter and said that the commission has also found prima facie that materials recovered from the group were not genuine and fabricated.
The court said that independent evidence corroborating materials placed on record was “necessary as to the trustworthiness of the documents to fasten liability” and it was apparent from the earlier judgments and laid down law that “loose sheets of papers are not admissible evidence”.
“We are constrained to observe that courts have to be at guard while ordering an investigation against any important constitutional functionaries. In the absence of some cogent material, the documents on the basis of which investigation is sought are itself inadmissible as evidence,” the bench said in its order after a day-long hearing in the matter.
“Irrespective of the fact, we have apprehension even to initiate investigation in the case and if we do so, investigation can be ordered against a person whosoever high in integrity on the basis of entries made by some unscrupulous elements in accounts of book which should not be random and there must be some cogent, reliable and admissible evidence,” it said.