NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court Wednesday turned down Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel’s plea challenging an order of a Mumbai court for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into a fraud case.
A bench of Justice V. Raveendran and Justice Markandey Katju asked the minister why was he afraid of the probe into a Rs.500 million scam by a firm he chaired once.
A Mumbai lower court had ordered the CBI probe into the case on a complaint by the Unit Trust of India (UTI) against nine directors of Mumbai-based Auto Riders Finance Ltd.
The UTI complaint alleged that the directors had misappropriated the security given against Rs.500 million loan borrowed between 1993 and 1995 for setting up the auto finance company.
Soon after lodging the complaint with the magisterial court, the UTI pleaded to it in November 2004 to delete the names of Patel and two other directors T.N.V. Iyer and Surendra Ruia on the grounds that they had quit the company between March 1999 and July 2000.
The magisterial court, while acceding to the UTI’s plea to drop three names, ordered the police to probe the fraud.
The police, in turn, initially indicted all the nine directors of the company involved in the probe and recommended a deeper probe by the CBI.
Though the police later disowned its own probe report, saying it had indicted Patel and two other directors erroneously, the matter went to the Bombay High Court in a form of a public interest lawsuit.
The high court asked the magisterial court to take suitable measures on the police recommendations, and gave it freedom to summon even Patel and two other directors of the company.
It was against this order that Patel moved the apex court.
Appearing for minister, former attorney general Ashok Desai contended before the apex court that his client was not liable to face probe as the magisterial court has already deleted his name from the list of suspects on a plea by the complainant.
But this did not impress the bench, which said: ‘Was your client acquitted? Did he face trial and was he held innocent?’