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SC Notice to Essar Over Alleged Corruption

Mar 24 2015 : The Economic Times (Mumbai)
New Delh i
Apex court asks co to reply within 6 weeks; petitioner’s lawyer Prashant Bhushan refuses to reveal the name of the whistle-blower in the court
The Supreme Court on Monday issues notices to Essar Group to explain allegations in a public interest litigation of a corporate-politician-bureaucratic nexus revealed by emails claimed to have been leaked from within the company.The PIL, claiming that the group had offered expensive gifts in return for business gains, demanded a Central Bu reau of Investigation probe into the allegations.

Admitting the PIL, a bench comprising Justices TS Thakur, Kurian Joseph and R Banumathi on Monday asked the company to reply to the allegations within six weeks.

Arguing the case for petitioner, activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan said the leaks made by a whistle-blower per se indicated offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act. There is no need to establish a quid pro quo between the main players, he said. It is enough that they held positions in which they had to deal with the businesses of Essar such as steel and coal, he said, naming politicians Beni Prasad Verma, Sri Prakash Jaiswal and Varun Gandhi.

The bench sought to know whether these emails could be authenticated if they were erased. Bhushan said they could be.

However, Bhushan refused to reveal the name of the whistleblower in a sealed cover to the court, saying the whistle-blower has already been threatened, as has his family. Although no first information report had been filed, two policemen had landed up at the whistle-blower’s house alleging corporate theft by the former employee, the lawyer said.

“This case is similar to the Radia tapes,“ said Bhushan. He also turned down a suggestion by the court to implead all the names against whom some allegations had been made in the PIL in the case.

“That is not required,“ Bhushan said, citing the example of the Hawala case in which the court had ruled out impleading any of the accused at the stage of investigations.

Justice Thakur asked whether the people whose name and reputation was at stake should not be made parties to the court. When Justice Kurian Joseph sought to know from Bhushan why he was not taking up the case of the fourth pillar, the media, in his PIL, Bhushan insisted he was.Several persons in the media had lost their jobs following the leaks, he said.

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