The Bombay High Court today directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to think about completing the trial in the 2002 fake stamp papers case within a time-bound manner.
A bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and P D Naik observed that the case that has been investigated by multiple probe agencies, and has a list of over 800 witnesses, was proving not just to be time-consuming, but was also imposing much burden on the judicial system in terms of time and infrastructure.
The bench’s directions came after it was informed that there were total 67 accused in the case, though many of them were eventually discharged, and that there existed three separate chargesheets, and over 800 witnesses in the case.
The bench was also informed that only 180 of the 800 witnesses had been cross examined so far.
“You needn’t examine all 800 witnesses. Else the case will never end. Besides, not all of these 800 will be important for the case. So many on the witness list are senior citizens, many have even passed away before their turn for cross examination came,” the bench said.
“You must take a final call as to where to stop. After you take instructions on these aspects, then we can try to help you by directing the trial court to hold day to day or expeditious hearings. We, therefore leave it to you to make an informed decision and inform this court,” the bench said.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by Sridhar Vagal, former joint commissioner of police Mumbai, and an accused in the multi-crore fake stamp paper scam.
Vagal has sought that he be discharged from the case since he “neither participated in the conspiracy for the scam, nor abetted the same”.
The HC has directed the CBI to inform the court of its decision within four weeks. The case was first probed by the Pune police. It was then taken over by the Pune Crime branch, and in 2004, the CBI took over the probe.
All the three investigation agencies filed their separate chargesheets.
A special court in Pune has been conducting the trial since 2009 against 19 of the 67 accused persons charged by the probe agencies in the case.
Abdul Karim Telgi, the kingpin of the multi-crore scam, died last year.