The Supreme Court has appointed former Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh and advocate Rajesh Batra as special public prosecutors (SPPs) for trial of multi-crore coal scam cases filed by Enforcement Directorate. Senior advocate R S Cheema, who was appointed SPP in 2014 by the top court, has sought permission to be relieved of the responsibility citing his age and shortage of law officers assisting him.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said that though there was no consensus on the names of individuals, the counsel appearing on all sides unanimously agreed that the apex court should appoint a seasoned trial court lawyer of impeccable integrity and a designated senior advocate to guide him and conduct the proceedings. 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 R S Cheema.
R S Cheema, may get relieved upon the newly appointed Prosecutors taking charge. This Court records appreciation for the services rendered by R S Cheema, said the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian. The direction was passed on a plea filed by the ED seeking appropriate directions for the appointment of a new SPP to conduct prosecution of cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, pertaining to coal block allocation matters.
The top court had on April 5, decided to appoint two judicial officers, Arun Bhardwaj and Sanjay Bansal, as special judges to conduct trials in the sensational coal scam cases pending since 2014 here in place of special judge Bharat Parashar who was holding trials in 41 cases. It had taken note of a letter from the Delhi High Court’s Registrar General that permission be granted to nominate or post another suitable presiding judicial officer as special judge in place of Parashar.
Cheema had then suggested that it would be appropriate to appoint two special courts instead of one for disposal of 41 pending cases. The top court had noted the concurrence of the central government to the proposal and went on to appoint Bhardwaj and Bansal as special judges to preside over two courts to deal with the cases.
It had considered the five names of judicial officers provided by the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court. The top court in 2014 had quashed 214 coal blocks allocated by the Centre between 1993 and 2010 after taking note of PILs, including one filed by lawyer M L Sharma, and had ordered a trial by a special CBI Judge.