The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the setting up of a special court to hear cases in the coal block allocation scam and suggested senior advocate Gopal Subramanium’s name as special public prosecutor (SPP) to represent investigating agencies in the cases.
Subramanium was the first choice of a bench headed by the Chief Justice RM Lodha, who said the court was keen to have a person of impeccable integrity and fine legal mind as SPP. Solicitor general Ranjit Kumar – who represented the Centre – also agreed to Subramanium’s name.
The development comes weeks after Subramanium withdrew his consent to be an apex court judge after the NDA government sent his name back to the SC collegium that had proposed his name, while clearing three other candidates to be Supreme Court judges.
Since Subramanium’s consent would be needed before appointing him SPP, Lodha asked counsels of all parties to persuade the senior advocate. “If I failed in something, you (the lawyers appearing in the case) should persuade him,” the CJI said, in an apparent reference to the SC judge controversy.
The SC order came during the hearing of a public interest litigation filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation -- an NGO-- seeking cancellation of coal block allocations during the UPA’s tenure.
It also demanded a court-monitored CBI probe into the alleged scam. CBI has initiated around 16 cases on coal block allocations, including those against then MP Naveen Jindal and former minister of state for coal Dasari Narayan Rao.
The top court also asked the chief justice of the Delhi high court to nominate a district-level judicial officer by July 25 to hear the cases arising out of the investigation by the CBI and the enforcement directorate.
In spite of the agreement over Subramanium’s candidature, differences emerged over the SPP’s powers as both Centre and CBI opposed allowing the SPP to examine case materials before the filing of chargesheets. The solicitor general agreed with the CBI counsel, saying that scrutinizing case files was the task of in-house prosecutors and CBI officers could refuse to accept the SPP’s opinion.