THE SUPREME Court has appointed former Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh and Advocate Rajesh Batra as Special Public Prosecutors (SPPs) for the trial of the cases registered by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, in connection with the coal block allocations cancelled by the court in 2014.
Singh and Batra will replace Senior Advocate R S Cheema, who had urged the court to relieve him of the responsibility as SPP.
Following this, ED urged the court to issue appropriate directions for the appointment of a new SPP to conduct prosecution of the cases. The court then asked Cheema and as well as Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to suggest a few names.
“Accordingly, both suggested a few names. Though there was no consensus on the names of individuals, the learned counsel appearing on all sides unanimously agreed that this court should appoint a seasoned trial court lawyer of impeccable integrity and a designated senior advocate to guide him and conduct the proceedings,” a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said.
“Taking into account the above said criteria, we hereby appoint (i) Shri Maninder Singh, Senior Advocate and former Additional Solicitor General of India; and (ii) Shri Rajesh Batra, Advocate as Special Public Prosecutors in the place of Shri R S Cheema”, the bench also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian ordered.
Conveying its appreciation to Cheema for his services, the court added that he “may get relieved upon the newly appointed prosecutors taking charge”.
Hearing a bunch of PILs, the SC in September 2014 had cancelled 214 of the 218 coal block allocations, declared illegal and arbitrary by it in an August 25, 2014 verdict. These allocations were made between 1993 and 2011.
On April 5, the court appointed two judicial officers, Arun Bhardwaj and Sanjay Bansal, as Special Judges to conduct trials in the coal scam cases pending since 2014 in place of Special Judge Bharat Parashar who had been trying the 41 pending cases as Special Judge since August 19, 2014. The SC picked the names from a panel suggested by the Delhi High Court.
Cheema as SPP had then suggested that it would be appropriate to appoint two special courts instead of one. The SC agreed to this