Wednesday, May 11, 2011

SC clears way for trial of 3 key Reliance officials

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered continuing the trial by a sessions court of V Balasubramaniam and Shankar Adawal, both senior executives of Mukesh Ambani-owned RIL, and Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group's N Sethuraman under the Official Secrets Act for allegedly possessing minutes of the meeting of the Union Cabinet.

A bench comprising Justices Dalveer Bhandari, V S Sirpurkar and Deepak Verma passed the order disregarding the objections raised by the counsel for the accused, senior advocate Amit Desai. Desai cited technical glitches in the order of the magistrate to send the case to a sessions court. The case should have been tried by the magistrate himself, Desai argued.

However, the SC bench disagreed, saying the magistrate had not done anything wrong. When Desai persisted with his arguments, the bench said, "Now contest the case on merits."

The bench did not even call upon solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam, who appeared for CBI, to address the objections raised by the counsel for Reliance and ADAG executives.

The case under the Official Secrets Act dates to 1998 when the Reliance Group had not been split between Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani, and the three executives worked together for the undivided conglomerate.

Interestingly, the troika of Balasubramaniam, Adawal and Sethuraman were represented by the same counsel, U U Lalit. They also had common advocate-on-record in R Sasiprabhu.

Supreme Court recently appointed Lalit as CBI's standing counsel in the spectrum scam case. The bench appeared amused when he saw the senior advocate appearing for the executives working for Ambani brothers. "Are you not the standing counsel for the CBI?"

Lalit explained that he was representing the agency in a different case. However, when the case was called for hearing later, Lalit did not appear, leaving it for Desai to argue.

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