SC to pass order on new SPPs for coal scam cases


New Delhi: The Centre on Monday objected to the names suggested by the Supreme Court appointed special public prosecutor for selecting new SPPs in the coal scam cases filed by the Enforcement Directorate after which the top court said it would pass orders based on the names given to it by the lawyers concerned.

Senior advocate R S Cheema, appointed SPP in 2014 by the top court, has sought to be relieved from the responsibility citing his age and shortage of law officers assisting him.

Cheema has agreed however to act as the SPP in cases lodged by CBI in coal scam.

A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said, We will pass order in the matter .

During the hearing, the top court asked for the opinion of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, on the two names with it — advocates Satish Tamta and D P Singh.

Mehta replied that these names were suggested on the last occasion and said, We have some reservations’.

The bench said Singh is appearing for the ED in the Agustawestland case and another matter.

Mehta said he has suggested the names of senior advocate Maninder Singh and advocate Rajesh Batra.

Cheema said that Batra was a very good criminal lawyer and the combination seems to be fine.

Advocate M L Sharma, the main petitioner in the coal scam case, said that there are so many accused in the coal scam cases and most of the senior advocates of the high court and the top court have appeared for them.

Trial court is known better by a trial court lawyer and the person to be appointed should not have appeared for the accused, he said.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for an NGO, said the court should go by the original names given by Cheema and not be swayed away by the objection of the government.

He said the SPP should be independent of the government.

The bench said Maninder Singh has resigned from the post of Additional Solicitor General and now he is independent.

It then said, Ok, we will pass order in the matter .

The top court had on April 5, decided to appoint two judicial officers, Arun Bhardwaj and Sanjay Bansal, as special judges to conduct trials in the sensational coal scam cases pending since 2014 here in place of special judge Bharat Parashar who was holding trials in 41 cases.

It had taken note of a letter from the Delhi High Court’s Registrar General that permission be granted to nominate or post another suitable presiding judicial officer as special judge in place of Parashar.

Cheema had then suggested that it would be appropriate to appoint two special courts instead of one for disposal of 41 pending cases.

The top court had noted the concurrence of the central government to the proposal and went on to appoint Bhardwaj and Bansal as special judges to preside over two courts to deal with the cases.

It had considered the five names of judicial officers provided by the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court and said that it assumed that “all the judges are good.”

The apex court on March 15 had requested the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court to provide names of five trial court judges of “high caliber and absolute integrity” for appointing one of them as the special judge to replace Parashar.

It had said, “We find that Bharat Parashar who has acted as a Special Judge (PC Act), (CBI)-07, Patiala House Court, New Delhi, needs to be replaced, as he has now completed more than 6 years in the same post after having been posted as Special Judge in the above mentioned court since August 19, 2014.

“We accordingly request the Chief Justice, Delhi High Court to give us a panel of names of about five judges of a high caliber and absolute integrity to enable us to suggest an appropriate replacement for Bharat Parashar, Special Judge,” the top court had said.

It had taken note of the submission of Cheema that the law contemplating the disposal of such cases has to be ensured in two years which may be extended up to four times by a period of six months each.

The top court in 2014 had quashed 214 coal blocks allocated by the Centre between 1993 and 2010 after taking note of PILs, including one filed by Sharma, and had ordered a trial by a special CBI Judge.