The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) functions under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Presumably the decisions of that agency are monitored by PMO officials. The decision by the CBI to appoint Mr. Uday Lalit as the Special Prosecutor in the 2G Spectrum case being heard by the special court must therefore have the PMO’s approval. The decision to appoint Mr. Lalit as the head of the prosecution team for the 2G case is on the face of it extraordinary.
Mr Uday Lalit is the counsel representing Mr. Hasan Ali in the money laundering case that is being currently heard by another bench of the Supreme Court (SC). The investigations in that case of black money deposited abroad are still proceeding. It is alleged by the CBI that many powerful politicians and big businessmen could be clients using the services of Mr. Hasan Ali to illegally transfer their money in foreign bank accounts. The names of those guilty of illegally depositing money abroad have yet to be unearthed and announced.
In the 2G Spectrum scam that is being investigated by the CBI there are also allegedly powerful politicians and big businessmen involved in corruption. The money earned by them through corruption has found its way into foreign bank accounts. That money trail is still being traced by the CBI. By appearing for Mr. Hasan Ali and at the same time becoming the Special Prosecutor in the 2G Spectrum case being heard in SC does not Mr. Uday Lalit create for himself a clear conflict of interest?
If it transpires that among the many political and business leaders involved with Mr. Hasan Ali there are also some involved in the 2G Spectrum case, how will Mr. Lalit acquit himself with credibility? How would the ongoing probe into the 2G scam be credible if it is alleged that some names involved with Mr. Hasan Ali are sought to be overlooked in the 2G Spectrum probe? And how could the CBI have already determined that part of the money illegally earned through corruption in the 2G Spectrum case was not transferred abroad through the services of Mr. Hasan Ali?
Reportedly Mr. Lalit had expressed initial reluctance to become the Special Prosecutor in the 2G Spectrum case but was persuaded to accept the appointment. The Counsel representing the petitioner in the 2G Spectrum case, Mr. Prashant Bhusan, suggested two other names for the Special Public Prosecutor’s post. The judges said that if necessary those names could be considered as additions to the team headed by Mr Lalit. Doubtless the SC judges in their wisdom are best equipped to ensure that full legal probity is maintained.
But it must be confessed that for the uninitiated public the appointment of Mr. Uday Lalit to head the team of prosecutors in the 2G Spectrum case is astounding. It is surprising that Mr. Lalit got persuaded to accept the post. It is more surprising that the CBI found no other suitable lawyer across the nation except Mr. Hasan Ali’s lawyer to become Special Prosecutor in the 2G Spectrum case. It is not surprising that the PMO did not raise a finger. But most surprising of all is that SC judges approved Mr. Lalit’s appointment. One is sure that the judges had good reason on their side. But as for the public, the old dictum holds: Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done.