New Delhi, Sep 29 (PTI) The Delhi High Court Tuesday ordered day-to-day hearing on the CBI and ED appeals against the acquittal of former telecom minister A Raja and others in the 2G spectrum allocation cases, saying delay in filing applications and voluminous documents should not deter it from hearing criminal appeals.
The high court allowed the pleas of the two investigative agencies for early hearing in the ‘leave to appeal’ applications, scheduled earlier for October 12, and listed the matter for arguments on October 5.
Leave to appeal is a formal permission granted by a court to a party to challenge a decision in a higher court.
Justice Brijesh Sethi, who is going to retire on November 30, said it is in the interest of justice that the court makes all endeavours to conclude the part-heard matters before he demits office.
The judge clarified that he will first hear the arguments in the CBI case in which Raja and 16 others were acquitted as it has already been part-heard.
The court has extensively heard the CBI in the matter, from October 24, 2019 till January 15, 2020, almost on a day-to-day basis and hearings could not continue from March due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are three cases pending with the court -- two CBI and one ED.
The court said however that if the agencies had moved these applications 2-3 months earlier, it would have been easier to decide the pleas.
CBI and ED had said substantial judicial time of the high court was consumed in hearing arguments and it should be concluded before the retirement of the judge otherwise, they will have to start afresh.
The agencies’ early hearing pleas were opposed by the counsels for acquitted individuals and firms on the ground that they had not shown the urgency so far and expressed apprehension that it will be difficult to connect with the clients and they will not be able to make effective submissions.
The judge reminded the advocates that 'they being the officers of this court, should assist in part-heard cases so that these are not left undecided and need not be heard afresh by a new bench, thus, causing unnecessary loss to the public exchequer and wastage of judicial time”.
The court, in its order, said it was of the opinion that with the assistance and cooperation of advocates, all endeavours should be made to hear the matter as early as possible and though the concerned judge has limited time, yet no one should carry an impression that he will not get a fair opportunity of hearing.
The court said there may be delay in filing the applications for early hearing, the documents are voluminous in nature, the evidence runs into thousands of pages and one of the judgment also runs into 1,552 pages, but it does not mean that this should deter it in hearing the criminal leave petitions.
“The judicial discipline demands that the judge should do his duty and must not succumb to pessimism and it is not expected from him to sit leisurely with his pen down and to say that he will not hear the cases because the record is voluminous and the time at his disposal is limited.
“It will be a folly not to make an attempt and to sit idle abdicating one’s duty. It is advisable to perform one’s duty irrespective of the fact whatever conclusion the petitions reach. This court, therefore, will not fail in its duty and expects all the counsels to cooperate and assist this court in deciding the matters expeditiously,” the judge said.
The court pointed out that it has been conducting hearings through video conference since April 24 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and cases of voluminous nature have also been decided.
This ground should not, therefore, be an excuse for this court or for the counsels for not proceeding with the arguments, it said.
'Moreover, in this age of advanced technology, there are speedy and effective modes of communication through which people can easily connect, even though sitting at long distances. Since the technology has advanced, it is difficult to accept the submissions that matter being voluminous in nature cannot be argued or heard by video conference,” it said.
A special court had on December 21, 2017 acquitted Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and others in the CBI and the ED cases related to the scam.
Besides Raja and Kanimozhi, the special court had acquitted former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura; Raja's erstwhile private secretary R K Chandolia; Unitech Ltd MD Sanjay Chandra and three top executives of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (RADAG) -- Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair, in the 2G case filed by the CBI.
Swan Telecom promoters Shahid 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 special court had also acquitted Swan Telecom (P) Ltd; Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Ltd; Reliance Telecom Ltd; film producer Karim Morani and Director of Kalaignar TV Sharad Kumar in the CBI case.
On the same day, the special court also acquitted 19 accused, including Raja, Kanimozhi, DMK supremo M Karunanidhi's wife Dayalu Ammal, Vinod Goenka, Asif Balwa, Karim Morani, P Amirtham and Sharad Kumar in the ED case.
The special court had also acquitted Essar Group promoters Ravi Kant Ruia and Anshuman Ruia, Loop Telecom promoters I P Khaitan and Kiran Khaitan and four others in a separate case arising out of the 2G scam probe.
In March 2018, the ED and CBI had approached the high court challenging the special court's order acquitting all the accused. PTI SKV HMP SA