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Delhi High Court admits CBI appeal against A Raja’s acquittal in 2G case

The Delhi High Court on Friday admitted the CBI’s appeal challenging the acquittal of former telecom minister A Raja and others in the 2G spectrum allocation case, observing that the allegation is not about an “ordinary criminal offence” but an “economic offence” which is a separate class and is “required to be handled with a different approach”.

The court passed the judgment on the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) “leave to appeal”, paving the way for dealing with the appeal on merits against the trial court’s verdict. The high court thereafter listed the matter on May 20. A leave to appeal is a formal permission granted to appeal against the decision of a court.

In December 2017, a special CBI judge had acquitted Raja, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) supremo Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi, and other accused of all charges in the 2G spectrum allocation cases. The CBI had moved the high court in this regard in 2018.

A single-judge bench of Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma on Friday said, “In such cases it is not necessary that actually someone has benefitted or not. The case of some of the accused persons cannot be segregated at this stage as the facts are so much interwoven with each other that it will be difficult to separate at this stage. It is also pertinent to mention that evidence oral in nature cannot be discarded outrightly merely because it is not corroborated by any documentary evidence.”

“The evidence has to be weighed and not counted. The court during the hearing has also noticed some contradictions in the judgment itself, which requires deeper examination. The court at this stage is required to have a prima facie helicopter view. There may be a possibility that such contradictions are explained by the defence during the hearing,” the judge added.

Justice Sharma in the 120-page order, also observed that the trial judge had “repeatedly noted” that the prosecution should have given an opportunity to the witness to explain the statement made by them. The high court said that this gives rise to the concern “why the Ld. Judge presiding over the trial did not exercise his jurisdiction” under the Indian Evidence Act to seek any clarity, if there was any ambiguity.

The judge noted that the court must apply its judicial mind before granting or refusing leave to appeal. It said that it is “fully conscious of the fact that the presumption of innocence which exists in favour of the accused at the beginning of the trial strengthens with the order of acquittal in its favour”.

It said that it is also fully conscious that leave cannot be granted “merely because” the high court considers that an alternative view could have been taken by it. It, however, also observed that this was a case where the “allegations were extremely serious in nature” which had to be handled in a very different manner.

“The court on the basis of material on record, and after going through the sworn testimonies, material on record, impugned judgement and the submissions made at bar by both the parties has reached on an objective satisfaction that there is a prima facie case which requires deeper examination and re-appreciation/re-appraisal of entire evidence. In view of the discussion made herein above, arguable points have been made out by the CBI thereby converting grant of Leave to Appeal,” Justice Sharma said.

Raja, Kanimozhi, and the other accused were acquitted of all charges in the 2G spectrum allocation cases — famously known as the 2G “scam” — by a special CBI judge on December 21, 2017.

The special court, which had held that there was no scam in the 2G spectrum allocation in 2007-08 when Raja was the telecom minister in the erstwhile United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime headed by Manmohan Singh, also set free all the accused in two offshoot cases lodged by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the CBI.

Previously, Justice Brijesh Sethi of the high court heard the matter and released the case on November 23, 2020, in view of his retirement on November 30, 2020, stating that the pleas would be listed before a new bench. Indian Express

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