The Rajasthan High Court High on Thursday stayed the proceedings of a trial court which had ordered reopening of a probe against former disinvestment minister Arun Shourie and four others over the sale of a government-owned hotel in Udaipur two decades back. The Jodhpur bench of the high court has summoned records of the case from the special CBI court, asking it not to proceed against the five petitioners until further orders.
Last month, the CBI court ordered the registration of a new FIR against former Union disinvestment minister Arun Shourie, the then department secretary Pradip Baijal, Lazard India Ltd managing director Ashish Guha, valuer Kantilal Karamsey and Bharat Hotels director Jyotsana Suri over the sale. The CBI had already filed a closure report after its earlier investigation into the sale of Laxmi Vilas Palace Hotel.
According to the initial complaint, the five had conspired through the disinvestment process in 1999-2002 to sell the ITDC-owned hotel to a private company for a meagre Rs 7.52 crore, causing a loss of Rs 244 crore to the exchequer. The counsels for the five petitioners appeared before the court of Justice Vijay Bishnoi through video conferencing. The day's hearing lasted over an hour.
Arguing his case himself, Shourie explained the disinvestment process. He said one individual had twice challenged the process before a division bench of this court in 2002 and 2006. Both times, the pleas were dismissed. Shourie said the trial court had made observations against him, alleging that he is of dual character, without giving him a hearing.
The counsels said the trial court grossly erred in passing the order. They argued that it could not be said on the basis of the material collected by the Central Bureau of Investigation during the probe that the petitioners were involved in the commission of a crime.
Additional Solicitor General of India S V Raju also supported petitioners' arguments. The CBI has filed closure reports twice in the matter with detailed reasons on why no offence is made out against any of the persons named in the FIR. But the trial court without considering the said reasons in the right perspective has illegally passed the impugned order, Raju argued.
The trial court had also ordered that Shourie and others should be summoned before it through an arrest warrant and also directed that the administration should take over the hotel till the matter is settled. Both directions were earlier put on hold by the high court.