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SC moots Gopal role in coal case

New Delhi, July 18: The Supreme Court today decided to set up a special court and appoint a special public prosecutor for the coal-block allocation case, with senior counsel Gopal Subramanium as one of the possible candidates.

The plan is similar to the court-monitored 2G case in which senior counsel U.U. Lalit had been named special public prosecutor.

The three-judge bench of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha and Justices Madan B. Lokur and Kurien Joseph indicated it would appoint Subramanium as the special public prosecutor if he were willing.

“If he accepts, it will be the best thing to happen,” Justice Lodha said.

Such an appointment would be significant following the recent controversy over the NDA government’s rejection of Subramanium’s possible elevation as a Supreme Court judge after the apex court collegium had recommended him.

After the government questioned his credentials, Subramanium withdrew his consent for the judgeship, publicly criticising the Centre and accusing the apex court collegium, headed by the Chief Justice, of not standing by him.

Justice Lodha had then frowned on the Centre’s handling of the matter and Subramanium’s decision to go public.

The Centre today did not make its stance clear on Subramanium’s possible appointment as special public prosecutor. Solicitor-general Ranjit Kumar told the court he would discuss the matter with the attorney-general and report back to it.

The apex court also asked the Delhi High Court chief justice to assign a sessions judge to conduct the special court proceedings “in all matters relating to the coal scam” and adjourned the matter till July 25.

At the previous hearing on July 8, the court had rapped the CBI for the delay in the probe and said it would appoint a special public prosecutor to guide the course of the investigation.

Today, Ranjit Kumar and CBI counsel Amarender Sharan opposed the court’s suggestion that the special public prosecutor be assigned to vet the chargesheet or any closure report that the agency or the Enforcement Directorate may seek to file.

Both counsel argued that the CBI manual vested the power to file a chargesheet or decide on a closure report solely with the agency director, so he alone can have the final say.

They argued that the special public prosecutor’s role would arise only during the trial stage and not before it. The bench reserved its decision on the subject.

The court is hearing two petitions, moved by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma and the NGO Common Cause, which is represented by advocates Prashant Bhushan and Pranav Sachdeva. The petitioners have sought cancellation of all coal-block allocations between 1993 and 2010 on the ground of irregularities.

On May 8, the apex court had restrained the CBI from filing any closure reports and asked two vigilance commissioners in the Central Vigilance Commission to examine the agency’s inquiry reports.