It's been almost five years but the multi-crore counterfeit stamp paper scam is nowhere near to come with final orders on the accused involved and there is little hope that the case would even be ready for trial in the next few days with the judge hearing the case been transferred, once again. For the third time after the case came into the special court of Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), the special judge has been transferred.
While the prosecution hopes that an extension will be given to special judge Chitra Bhedi, who was transferred to city civil court in greater Mumbai, accused have fears in mind that the case might get starched unnecessarily. Bhedi's transfer has come at a point when the case was at a crucial stage.
The court has begun the process of framing charges against the 66 accused in the infamous Bund Garden case, registered in June 2002. While the hearing of charges against 64 accused have been completed, the process has not yet begun for two accused including kingpin Abdul Karim Telgi.
If the present judge in the MCOCA court does not grant extension, the entire process of framing of charges may get delayed as the new judge will have to go through charges once again while overlooking thousands of papers pertaining to the case. Prior to Bhedi there were two other judges including SM Shembole and BN Sardeshpande who were hearing the case. However, they were transferred causing the delay in taking the case ahead. As per HC's order judge SP Hayatnagarkar will replace Bhedi. Since the special court hearing the Telgi case have been vested with special powers wherein it only is authorised to hear all the MCOCA cases pertaining to the Telgi scam, order about special powers to the new judge are also expected to come soon.
High court's transfer order to Bhedi and several other judges from various courts in Maharashtra will come into effect on June 4. "Looking at the nature of the case and the stage where it has reached I am hopeful that the High Court will extend the tenure of the present judge in MCOCA court of Pune", special public prosecutor Raja Thakre said. Telgi's lawyer Milind Pawar however said that "there was confusion on whether argument about charges framing against Telgi will be held on May 24. If the present judge does not grant extension, the prosecution will have to read all the charges against all the 66 accused once again".
Senior lawyer Srikant Shivade said that there have been past incidences in which the high court has extended the tenure of judges even after their transfer order was issued.
Bund garden case, the largest
Among all the cases pertaining to the Telgi scam, the Bund garden case, registered in June 2002, is the largest, in which as many as 66 accused including politicians, bureaucrats and senior police officials have been booked.
According to the CBI, which is investigating the matter, the gravity of the case is worth Rs. 172 crores.