Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emerged unscathed from the Sahara-Birla payoff allegations.
The Supreme Court order quashing NGO Common Cause's plea for a court monitored Special Investigations Team investigations into the Sahara-Birla papers has taken the wind out of the sails of the Congress and AAP campaign against the Prime Minister.
The two-judge bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Amitava Roy did not find the documents credible enough for them to order a probe. The documents also mention the names of other politicians, including Sheila Dikshit, Congress leader and former CM of Delhi, Shivraj Chauhan, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, among others.
Prashant Bhushan, senior lawyer, politician and anti-corruption activist, who appeared for Common Cause, is not convinced.
In a very tough statement on the court's order, Bhushan, in this conversation with Catch, alleges that the "judges who were dealing with this case did not feel emboldened enough to order an investigation against the high and mighty."
The list of judges who have heard the matter also includes the present Chief Justice of India JS Khehar, who recused himself before the last hearing which quashed the plea.
The two-judge bench reportedly said, "If an investigation is ordered on the basis of inadmissible evidence like this, constitutional functionaries can't function and democracy will not be safe." and that "democracy cannot function if investigation is set in motion against high constitutional functionaries without cogent material."
Navigating tricky waters
Bhushan, meanwhile, says the order is a "serious setback to the anti-corruption movement and those who seek probity." He claims that such an order "gives virtual immunity to high and mighty even when there is credible evidence."
Bhushan says, "Often, the hands of the SC tremble when there is a situation when the judgement is going to determine the fate of high and mighty and may lead to a situation where some of them may land up in jail."
Interestingly, New Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal provided some of the documents that formed part of the evidence - which were subsequently thrown out of court. "He provided some documents which we did not have," Bhushan tells Catch.
The lawyer is also not convinced how the SC bench, while quashing Common Cause's plea, used what he calls the "absurd Income Tax Settlement Commission Order" and the Jain Hawala case where the SC had said how diaries alone do not constitute evidence unless there are other corroborative evidence to back them. In that case, even though the CBI had investigated the matter, it couldn't find any additional evidence.