Delhi High Court Allows Early Hearing of Pleas by CBI and ED in 2G Spectrum Appeals

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The Delhi High Court allowed the early hearing applications moved by Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate in appeals against acquittal of all Accused in Enforcement Directorate vs A Raja & Ors.

Brief Facts

The Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate had sought an urgent virtual hearing in the matter. This was to facilitate a decision on their leave to appeal before the retirement of Justice Sethi at the end of November 2020. All acquitted Accused persons, including A Raja and K Kanimozhi, opposed the early hearing plea. 

This was on the ground that the High Court had taken up only those pending criminal matters in which the Accused was still in custody. Thus, there was no urgency in the present case. After the acquittal of all Accused by the CBI Court in December 2017, the CBI and the ED had filed an appeal in the High Court on March 2018. 

Since then, the case had lingered and was yet to cross the hurdle of the grant of leave to appeal by the High Court. Last year, the Court had begun listing the appeals on an almost day-to-day basis. The same was, however, discontinued due to disruptions caused by COVID-19. 

Contentions

ASG Sanjay Jain appeared as Counsel for the Agencies. He contended that the scheduled date of October 12th should be advanced on account of public interest and also to save judicial time. Retirement of a judge was not a legal ground to advance an already fixed date, the Counsel claimed. Given the voluminous trial record, the Counsel also apprehended that virtual hearings would not be feasible.

Court’s Observation

A Single Judge Bench of Justice Brijesh Sethi pronounced the Order. The Court opined that the interest of justice demanded in part-heard matters should not be left inconclusive. This was because of the unnecessary loss to the public exchequer and wastage of judicial time. 

The Learned Counsels for the Respondents stated that there were other matters which required the attention of this Court. In some of the cases, convicts were languishing in jail, and their appeals should be heard and decided first. It was appreciable that the Learned Counsels were not only concerned with their cases. They also expressed concern about the disposal of other pending cases in which the Accused were in jail. The criminal appeals of those convicts who were languishing in jail were being heard and decided by this Court while sitting in Division Bench at present. 

The Court observed that in this age of advanced technology, the voluminous nature of trial record cannot be an excuse for the Court or for the Counsel for not proceeding with the arguments. The Court stated, “The technology has advanced, it was difficult to accept the submissions that matter being voluminous in nature cannot be argued or heard by video conference”.

The Court further opined that with the assistance and cooperation of all Counsels, all endeavours should be made to hear the matter as early as possible. The Court concluded that though there may be a delay in filing applications and that there may be voluminous documents, it cannot deter the Court from hearing the leave petitions. 

Court’s Decision

Considering the contentions put forth, the Court allowed the applications for the early hearing of the leave petitions. The Court ordered that the leave to appeal shall be heard on a day-to-day basis from October 5th, 2020 from 2.30 PM.

The Court further stated that these petitions shall be heard after the work of the Division Bench is finished. The Court’s order held that the arguments in the part-heard petition i.e. Crl.L.P.185/2018 shall be heard first.


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