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Sahara-Birla papers: SC judgement could leave a cloud of suspicion?

NEW DELHI: Activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan on Wednesday termed as unfortunate the judgement in a PIL filed by an NGO seeking probe into bribery allegations against the Prime Minister and some other politicians and said it was setback for the campaign against corruption and probity in public life.

In a statement, Bhushan who appeared for the NGO Common Cause in the case, said the judgement will leave a cloud of suspicion over all the persons mentioned in some documents. The cloud could have dissipated had there been an independent investigation into the documents, he said.

Supreme Court on Wednesday threw out a petition filed by NGO ‘Common Cause’​ seeking a probe into the IT raids on Sahara and Birla in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and certain politicians name came up, dealing a blow to an opposition leader who had latched on to the case. A panel of judges headed by Justice Arun Mishra and also comprising Justice Amitava Roy found that there was too little evidence to go on, deflating Rahul Gandhi’s warnings late last year that he would cause an “earthquake” by unveiling proof that Modi was corrupt.

In the event, it transpired that Gandhi was referring to a case already before India’s highest court that relied on evidence recovered in income-tax raids on two corporate houses. Citing written records, the plaintiff alleged that an individual called “Gujarat CM” had received cash payments from companies totalling at least 400 million rupees ($5.9 million) in late 2013 and early 2014. “There is not enough evidence to order an inquiry into the case. We are dismissing it,” a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra ruled.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, told the court that there was no credible evidence to prove that Modi had been paid off. “Nobody in the country would be safe if such documents are accepted as legal evidence. Anyone can put the name of anybody on such papers,” Rohatgi told the court.

Prashant Bhushan, the lawyer who brought the case on behalf of a petitioner NGO, had urged the court to order a probe into the alleged payments made to public officials. “It is sad and unfortunate that the Supreme Court dismissed my plea,” Bhushan told Reuters.