The ED is seeking to transfer the investigation into the supposed Nagrik Apurti Nigam (NAN) scheme in Chhattisgarh The Enforcement Directorate (ED) told the Supreme Court on Monday that “a sitting judge of the High Court was in touch with constitutional authorities who were helping the accused”.
Two top IAS officials, Anil Tuteja and Alok Shukla are among the IAS officers being investigated in the multi-crore NAN fraud that was discovered in 2015 during the prior BJP administration in Chhattisgarh. A probe was launched in response to allegations of corruption within the public distribution system.NAN. NAN is the government agency responsible for the distribution and purchase of food grains.
“Please look over the information. If it is released in the public domain, it could alter the trust of the system because of the people in the process… An appointing judge from the High Court was in touch with constitutional authorities that helped the defendant… Do Your Lordships consider making it known to the public?” the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who was representing the ED before the bench headed by the Chief Justice of India U U Lalit, as counsel of the state government. an objection to the presentation of information in a sealed envelope.
A Senior Attorney Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the plaintiffs, said that the judge’s role was not over the law.
Mehta stated that he would leave his decision up to the judge, and added, “I will not oppose if it is to be made public”. He claimed that the ED had evidence that showed that the main defendants of the trial “were in touch with a constitutional functionary through an intermediary before being granted anticipatory bail” in the corruption case against them.
“It has emerged that a senior functionary of the government of Chhattisgarh” is “actively engaged in reducing the severity of the primary offense, i.e. corruption case, against both the principal defendant and the prosecution” and the defendant “continues to be in a top post in the current government and remains in charge of the General Administration Department,” he added.
In addition to the other charges of tampering with documents, influencing witnesses, and intimidating the official who gave approval for the prosecution of the defendants, Mehta stated: “When I (ED) realized” that two of the defendants “were in close contact with the two constitutional functionaries who played a role in the grant of anticipatory bail and I (ED) came to know they are preparing typed statements of the witnesses to be filed, I (ED) moved this court”.
The SC issued a notice in December 2021 however, the case did not get a hearing even though the judge had made reference to the matter “not less than six times” and submitted written documents “not less than 10 times” that the trial was going on and was becoming complicated, according to Mehta.
Responding to the submissions Rohatgi declared: “You have read this out to hurt my case. However, you do not file the evidence. This isn’t material that can be hidden from me if I am going to be relying upon it”. He added that there have been SC rulings that do not support the sealed cover process.
Senior Attorney Kapil Sibal claimed that the chargesheet was filed during the time the BJP government was in place in the state. No new investigation was initiated under that Congress government. Sibal said that if the ED documents material with a sealed envelope and sealed cover, the state would be keen to preserve certain evidence related to the year 2011.
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The court allowed both sides to put the matter before the bench, which also includes justices S Ravindra Bhat and Ajay Rastogi, stating: “In case we find that the information is public, we will send copies to the opposing side. At the present time, it seems that the request was given that the investigation needed to be transferred, and the court issued a notice in November 2021. The month of September is upon us. of September, meaning that 10 months have passed. Therefore, in our opinion prior to allowing the trial to end at the very least, we should consider whether we agree or not with this argument.”
The court also stated: “We are not saying, at this stage, anything about the trial being suspended, transferred etc, but… before the trial concludes and the judgement is delivered, we must at least make an attempt to see whether there is any substance in what the other side is saying and whether it requires any consideration”.
As an intervener Advocate Prashant Bhushan stated that the “investigation leaves much to be desired” and demanded the investigation to be handed over to an independent organization and controlled by a competent court.
The SC will decide on the issue the next day, on September 26.
The multi-crore NAN fraud was discovered in 2015, under the prior BJP administration in Chhattisgarh when civil society, as well as the Opposition, had raised concerns about corruption within the distribution process for public consumption. Rice millers as well as agents are said to have paid kickbacks officials in order to permit substandard rice to be distributed by the government’s PDS.
The government was then able to initiate an investigation by investigators from the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and Economic Offences Wing (EOW). The senior IAS agents Anil Tuteja and Alok Shukla were among those accused of the alleged fraud. In the time Shukla was the NAN Chairman, Tuteja was its managing director.
Within a few days of the Congress becoming the ruling party in December of 2018 Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel had announced the creation of an SIT. Shukla and Tuteja were fugitives when the chargesheet was filed requested anticipatory bail and were then appointed as government officials. In the meantime, Shukla was scheduled to retire, received an extension, and is now posted as the principal secretary of several departments like education and skill development. Tuteja has been appointed joint secretary of the department of commerce and industries.
In August of 2020 In August 2020, The Chhattisgarh High Court granted them bail in anticipation that the ED has been challenged through the SC. In its petition, the ED claims the following “both these prime accused persons wield substantial political and administrative power and are very close to the Hon’ble Chief Minister, State of Chhattisgarh.”
In its affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court in September 2021 in September 2021, the ED claimed that they had “cogent evidence” that the current government assisted the two principal accused by pressing officials in the investigation as well as “sharing the relevant and confidential information of investigation carried on by EOW/ACB with the prime accused and navigating investigation/report by the SIT as per desires of both the prime accused”.