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Apex court criticises Khurshid's businessmen remark

Wednesday October 12, 2011 10:05:48 PM, IANS

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday took a serious view of union Law and Justice Minister Salman Khurshid's statement that keeping businessmen in jail was affecting the investment climate of the country.

The apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice H.L. Dattu said that the minister's statement gave an impression as if "we are interested in keeping businessmen behind bars".

"This is disturbing for us, if it (statement) is true," Justice Dattu said.

He said that there "is a confusion created by a newspaper report. A newspaper has reported a statement attributed to an honourable minister that gives an impression (that) we are interested in keeping businessmen behind bars".

Justice Dattu said the statement was made "when we are in the midst of a serious matter going on for six hearings".

The court was hearing the bail pleas of Sanjay Chandra, the head of the telecom arm of Unitech, and Vinod Goenka of DBA Realty in the second generation (2G) spectrum allocation scam.

The court voiced its exception to Khurshid's statement when Additional Solicitor General Harin Rawal was arguing the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) plea opposing the bail pleas.

Justice Dattu said that in the wake of the union minister's statement, "we thought that there would be a change in Rawal's stand."

Justice Singhvi said: "We did not read newspapers for four days nor watched the television. Somebody rang us to inform about the report in the newspaper."

The court asked Rawal to clarify the import of the statement by the union law and justice minister. If it was the stand of the government, it must be clarified, the court said.

The court said this may be a matter of personal opinion of the minister.

Justice Singhvi said, "We wanted to know if that statement (by Khurshid) was correct", and added that many things which were printed (in newspapers) were not correct.

As Rawal told the court that he was appearing for the CBI and not the central government, Justice Dattu said, "To say that the CBI was not the part of the central government is a misnomer".

Justice Singhvi pointed to another news report which said that "the CBI would not oppose the bail pleas of certain people".

Rawal said that he had already sought clarification from the agency if it would oppose the bail plea of DMK MP and co-accused Kanimozhi.

He said he had instructions to oppose the bail plea of corporate executives in 2G scam both in law and on facts.

At this Justice Singhvi said: "You have PRO (public relations officer) in CBI and the government of India has its public relations department. Is it not appropriate that there are immediate contradiction (of such reports)?".

Khurshid had earlier said that the judiciary and other institutions should understand realities of "political economy" and that keeping businessmen jailed would discourage investments into the country.

While opposing the plea for bail, Rawal pointed to the role of different players, including former communications minister A. Raja, in hatching the conspiracy before the cut-off date was advanced for the allocation of 2G licences and spectrum.

Rawal told the court that the release of the corporate executives could affect the Directorate of Enforcement investigations into the money trail.

Responding to the query whether bail should be denied in all the corruption cases, Rawal said "generally in the case of corruption, the bail should be denied and the balance of decision should be read" in the favours of public interest.







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