The Supreme Court on Monday declined to entertain the Centre’s plea seeking to recall its direction for registration of a regular case by the CBI to probe into the decision for 26 per cent stake sale in Hindustan Zinc Ltd in 2002, even as it informed the top court that the CBI gave “false facts” in the matter.
A bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that he is saying that the court found sufficient material for registration of a regular case, but now he will establish that there was no sufficient material for the registration of a regular case.
“That in fact, the material is to the contrary? That cannot be the basis of a recall application.”
The bench emphasised that there are two parties before it – the government and the CBI – and pointed out the information from the CBI records. “The government today says that CBI bungled in terms of what it has recorded as part of the investigation process in the file?” it asked Mehta.
Mehta, defending Centre’s miscellaneous application, submitted that plea for recall of the CBI probe is justifiable and maintainable. He said if the ultimate conclusion of the court is based on the facts which are false, presented by one of the parties, the CBI, then it is not only the right or jurisdiction of the court, but its duty to recall the order. He added that the foundational facts unfortunately presented by the CBI are factually incorrect.
At this, the bench queried: “But this is an application by the government… You are saying the foundational facts of the CBI were incorrect?”
Mehta submitted that the CBI said that the decision of disinvesting 26 per cent instead of 25 per cent was done on the basis of a senior government official’s note of August 2000, without further details or reasoning.
Citing a document, he said that this was not a single officer’s decision, instead it was a proposal, which was scrutinised at four different levels and not at individual level, and the result was from a collective decision-making process. He added that the decision of disinvestment was examined by an empowered committee of secretaries and then by a core group for disinvestment, after which it was approved by the Cabinet.
“The Cabinet takes the inputs from all the departments. Actually, the CBI informed your lordships wrongly that it was at the behest of one individual,” he said.
The bench, also comprising Justice Surya Kant, queried Mehta that the CBI has produced the entire file before it. “It is not that they just made a statement before us. We looked at every noting in the file,” said the bench. Mehta responded that unfortunately, the facts placed on record now are not part of the CBI file.
The bench pointed out the fact that the Cabinet had approved of this as part of the CBI file. Citing the judgment, it added “under irregularities in the valuation of 26 per cent equity for disinvestment is the fact, that we have ourselves said, that the value of the mines was not included in the valuation of the assets”.
At the end of the hearing, Mehta submitted: “Please don’t take this application as an attempt to show that the court committed some mistake. My attempt is that the CBI gave some facts which are not correct,”
Concluding the hearing, the bench recorded that Mehta sought permission to withdraw the MA with liberty to pursue the remedies in law, including a review. “The MA is accordingly dismissed as withdrawn,” it said.
In November last year, directing a full-fledged CBI probe, the top court said: “It is our considered opinion that the disinvestment (26 per cent stake in HZL) in 2002 evinces a prime facie case for registration of a regular case. We are desisting from commenting on some crucial facts and names of individuals involved, so as to not cause prejudice to the investigation of the matter.”