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PNB Fraud: Court-monitored probe would amount to parallel enquiry, Centre tells SC

Attorney General KK Venugopal said there was no justification to call upon the investigating agencies to show what they are doing.

india Updated: Mar 16, 2018 23:52 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Centre,Supreme Court,PNB Fraud
Nirav Modi is the prime accused in the Rs 11,300 crore PNB fraud case.(PTI File Photo)

The Centre on Friday strongly resisted a court-monitored probe into the Punjab National Bank (PNB) case, saying that it would “amount to a parallel enquiry” into what is believed to be the biggest fraud in the country’s banking history.

Attorney General KK Venugopal opposed the Supreme Court’s suggestion to the government to file a status report on the investigation in a sealed cover.

“This would amount to a parallel enquiry,” Venugopal told a bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra when the latter was about to issue the order.

“On what principle a court, including the Supreme Court, can ask for a sealed cover report on the investigation underway. In this case 18 persons have been arrested, including eight government officers,” the top law officer said.

Venugopal said there was no justification to call upon the investigating agencies to show what they are doing.

His submission came when the bench took up a PIL filed by a lawyer who wants the top court to ensure that the government brings back jeweller Nirav Modi, the prime accused in the Rs 11,300 crore case, to India within two months. He has also asked for issuance of fresh guidelines on grant of big loans.

Venugopal even questioned the manner in which PILs are filed in courts in criminal cases, even before agencies start their investigation.

“And orders are being passed frequently by courts on such petitions. This will bring the morale down of the officers,” the AG said, asking the court not to entertain the PIL unless the petitioner proves there is something wrong with the probe.

The court, which was keen to issue an order, however, adjourned the matter after it admonished the petitioner’s lawyer for using “derogatory” language against the AG. Advocate JP DHanda made a statement that Venugopal had not read his petition and was unaware of the prayers made in the PIL.

“We won’t hear it today now. Nobody can ask Attorney General, who is a constitutional office bearer whether he has read a petition or not. Meet law with law. Such statements are unacceptable to us. Don’t make statements to politicize the issue,” the bench remarked, deferring the case to April 9.

The fraud, detected in January, was allegedly committed in connivance of two PNB officials who bypassed the core banking system to generate fraudulent letters of undertaking to overseas branches of other Indian banks which lent money to the Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi, based on the guarantee from PNB.

First Published: Mar 16, 2018 23:50 IST