Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Kerala High Court Judge overreaches?

One of the biggest scams in Kerala in recent years is the solar energy project promoted by Team Solar. The key persons in this are Saritha Nair, a well connected woman, and Biju Radhakrishnan. It is said that the woman is involved in 30 plus cheating cases and has undergone imprisonment.

There are several allegations that Saritha has considerable influence with the Kerala State Government and politicians. The Opposition has been demanding a CBI investigation and judicial enquiry into the Solar Scam. A probe about at least one case by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Kerala Police is already on.

That is about an allegation that a businessman, Sreedharan Nair, met the Chief Minister (CM) in his office along with Saritha and then invested large amounts in Team Solar. This was disputed by the Government and demand arose that the CCTV records in the Chief Minister’s Office premises be examined. The Government refused saying that the CCTV had only 15 days capacity to store visuals. A Public Interest case was filed in the Kerala High Court for recovery of CCTV records.

Earlier, in some cases in the High Court involving Saritha and her team, a few of the comments of the then sitting judge appeared to be adverse to the Government. After Onam holidays that judge was changed and a new one was appointed to the concerned bench. The change had attracted a great deal of criticism.

By the time the new judge, Harun ul-Rashid heard the CCTV case, the footage had been already collected and sent for lab confirmation by the Special Investigation Team (SIT), which had also interrogated the Chief Minister. The case therefore had become irrelevant. All that the judge had to do was to close it.

But he reportedly went into matters which were neither contained in the prayer nor connected with the petition. He, it seems, said that there was no need to examine the CCTV visuals, they were irrelevant, Sreedharan Nair did not accuse the Chief Minister in his (still secret) statement to the concerned Magistrate, and even if the CM had advised the man to invest with Saritha, there was nothing wrong with it.

Well, there has been an argument by some politicians that the State has not lost a penny in the Saritha affair. They seem to forget that in most cheating and theft cases State funds are not affected.

Also they contend that Sreedharan Nair had given two cheques to Saritha even before meeting the CM on July 9. Surely the court and the public know that handing over cheque does not amount to making a valid payment. Only on encashing the cheque the disbursement takes place. When did Saritha encash Sreedharan Nair’s cheque? Some claim that the amount was for a small portion of the contract. Did the court go into all these before making sweeping statements?
What is shocking is that these observations of the High Court have come when the investigations into the scam are still progressing and cases are yet to be filed. Won’t the verdict adversely affect the enquiry and the trial still to come in the lower courts?

Recently the same Judge had reportedly said in a speech at Tellicherry something to the effect that the mood of a judge (caused by different factors) affects his judgements and that the lawyers should temper their cases before him suitably. The Tellicherry Bar Association has protested and reported the matter to the Chief Justices of the Kerala High Court and the Supreme Court. Fortunately, we have a system to correct any aberrations.

One sad fall out of all these is that many people who believed that the CM is innocent may start doubting that he has done something wrong and there is an attempt to cover up. 

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