Develop method to avoid delay in filing appeals, SC to CBI chief

The Supreme Court on Friday criticised the CBI over the delay in filing an appeal in a corruption case, remarking that there is a probability of a modus operandi being adopted by officers in a bid to save the accused.

A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah suggested the new CBI Director must ensure there is some sort of mechanism to ensure delays in filing appeals do not occur in the future. It further added that necessary administrative action should be taken to ensure that the filing of appeals and other steps associated are monitored on an ICT platform.

The top court made these remarks during the hearing of a special leave petition filed by the Centre against a judgment dated June 26, 2019 of the Chhattisgarh High Court by which the November 2012 decision of the Special CBI Judge, Raipur, convicting the respondents under Sections 120B, 420 of the Indian Penal Code and other sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act was reversed, and the respondents were acquitted.

The bench pointed out that the appeal was filed after a delay of 647 days against the High Court judgement, and the application for condonation of delay did not cite any solid explanation. The top court also refused to entertain the CBI’s contention that the delay in filing appeal was due to Covid-19 pandemic, and added that this was not acceptable.

As Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Centre, urged the court to consider the matter on merits, as it was a case of forgery and embezzlement, the bench asked that if it was such a serious matter, why prompt action was not taken in filing this appeal? The bench also pointed out at the probability of a modus operandi that the officers had connived with the accused.

“The CBI must take all necessary steps to ensure that these kinds of delays do not occur in the future. Delays are liable to cause grave misgivings on reasons for delay.”