The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to pass any order on a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking an investigation into the role of the Punjab National Bank (PNB) top brass and deportation of billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi in the Rs 11,400-crore fraud case. This came after attorney general KK Venugopal opposed the plea from being taken up at this point of time on the grounds that a first information report had already been filed in the case and a probe was on. As soon as the AG got up to oppose the PIL, petitioner lawyer Vineet Dhanda urged a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud to issue notice to the Centre and others as the “kingpin of the scam Nirav Modi” had run away with the “common man’s savings”. After some heated exchanges, the CJI observed that “we are here to address only legal issues. Big emotional speeches will have no impact.” He also added that it amounted to misuse of the legal provision of filing a PIL for publicity.
Even Chandrachud described the PIL as a “publicity oriented litigation… It has become a fashion if something appears in the newspaper, the court is moved. This is playing to the gallery. Let the government do its duty and investigate. These are the petitions playing to the gallery. Let us not pre-empt the jurisdiction of the government (to investigate a scam),” Chandrachud said. Taking exception to the observation from the bench, Dhanda said that if the PIL was being seen as “something to gain publicity from”, then he is willing to withdraw it and let the apex court take suo motu cognisance of the scam.
Dhanda said that the scam of such a magnitude has jolted the morale of the customers (account holders) and involves the interest of the country. “If they (the government) are so efficient, why scams are taking place,” he questioned, while pointing to liquor baron Vijay Mallya leaving the country and being accused of duping a consortium of banks of Rs 9,000 crore.
The lawyer further told the bench that the AG should not oppose his PIL and he must submit his stand in an affidavit.The CBI has already registered two FIRs, one on January 31 and another a few days ago, against Nirav Modi, his uncle Mehul Choksi of Gitanjali Gems and others for allegedly defrauding PNB of about Rs 11,400 crore. The case will be heard next on March 16. The PIL had sought a direction to the government to issue fresh guidelines on granting of big loans by banks and also a foolproof mechanism for recovery.
Dhanda also wanted a direction to the finance ministry to set guidelines for grant of higher amount of loans of Rs 10 crore and above to ensure safety and its recovery, besides constitution of a committee of experts to look into bad debt cases in the country. He also prayed for deportation of Modi preferably within two months. Besides, it sought a special investigation team probe into the scam involving Modi and another Choksi.