Special CBI Judge OP Saini’s decision to acquit all the accused in the 2G scam, in which former telecom minister A Raja was accused of providing spectrum to certain telecom companies in return for favours, has prompted many to re-examine their attitude towards the Congress-run United Progressive Alliance which was believed to be mired in corruption. But Saini’s judgment itself suggests a re-evaluation of the current government’s attitude towards prosecuting corruption cases – especially one as significant as this. The Special Judge devotes an entire section of the order to point out how the prosecution did a shoddy job, failing to provide evidence or even own up to its own arguments. This ultimately convinced the court that there was no clinching proof of the accusations.
“In the beginning, the prosecution started with the case with great enthusiasm and ardour,” Saini said in the order. “However, as the case progressed, it became highly cautious and guarded in its attitude making it difficult to find out as to what prosecution wanted to prove. However, by the end, the quality of prosecution totally deteriorated and it became directionless and diffident. Not much is required to be written as the things are apparent from the perusal of the evidence itself.”
To explain what he means, the judge gave a few examples, primarily pointing out that the prosecutors in the case were not even willing to sign its own applications and replies in the court.
“Several applications and replies were filed in the Court on behalf of the prosecution. However, in the latter and also in the final phase of the trial, no senior officer or prosecutor was willing to sign these applications or replies and the same used to be signed by a junior most officer Inspector Manoj Kumar posted in the Court. When questioned, the reply of the regular Sr. PP would be that the learned Spl. PP would sign it and when the learned Spl. PP was questioned, he would say that CBI people would sign it. Ultimately, the petition/reply would be filed under the signature of Inspector. This shows that neither any investigator nor any prosecutor was willing to take any responsibility for what was being filed or said in the Court.”
It is important to note that the case began with the filing of the chargesheet in 2011, when renowned lawyer UU Lalit was appointed as the Special Public Prosecutor. Over time, however, the team changed somewhat, especially when Lalit was appointed to be a judge on the Supreme Court. At the time, in 2014, the Narendra Modi government appointed senior advocate Anand Grover to take over the case, a decision that the Supreme Court – which has monitored the entire matter – approved.
In his order, Saini said that though Grover insisted he would file written submissions – essentially arguments written on paper – he chose to argue the matter orally, and went on doing so for several months. Even when the prosecution’s final arguments were complete, he did not file his written arguments and said he would do so only when the defence filed its own. The judge called this “highly unfair”, saying the prosecution should have filed its arguments on paper so the defence would have a clear idea of what the case against them was.
He adds that the prosecution only started making its genuine arguments in rebuttal to the defence’s arguments, which was also a “unique situation”, since usually the prosecutors make their case first. That meant the defence too had to be given more time to respond.
“Not only this, the most painful part is that learned Spl. PP was not ready to sign the written submissions filed by him. What is the use of a document in a Court of law, which is not signed by anyone?”
Saini says that “great efforts” had to be made to persuade the special public prosecutor to sign the written submissions, but all in vain. It was only after the court said that unsigned submissions would not be considered that he signed them. The judge also said that he asked the regular senior public prosecutor, from the CBI, and the inspector on the case, why they too were not signing the documents.
“Their reply was that the same were not coming from their office and were instead coming from the office of the learned Spl. PP. Their submission was that unless these written arguments were processed in their office, they would not sign it. This shows that the learned Spl. PP and the regular prosecutor were moving in two different directions without any coordination,” the order said.