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PC used office to help businessman client
KOTA NEELIMA  New Delhi | 18th Dec 2011

P. Chidambaram talks on his mobile phone during an event in New Delhi last week. PTI

ome Minister P. Chidambaram had "approved" the process which led to the withdrawal of prosecution of a former client, businessman S.P. Gupta, in cases proceeding in court under three FIRs filed by the Delhi police for fraud, forgery and misusing the name of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

This is according to a letter written on 9 May 2011, by A.K. Saxena, Director (Delhi) to Arvind Ray, Principal Secretary (Home), Delhi government and numbered 14036/39/2009-UTP, MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs). Quoting the opinion the MHA had sought from Law Ministry, the letter urges the Delhi government to withdraw prosecution and stresses that this has "the approval of the Union Home Minister".

Contrary to the clarifications by the MHA that it only forwarded the advice of the Law Ministry, the letter shows that the MHA not only actively pursued Gupta's case but also sought the Delhi government to "urgently scrutinise" the cases "for taking action" under the relevant section "for withdrawal of prosecution immediately".

It may be noted that Chidambaram had represented Gupta and others, petitioners in the case, in the High Court on 4 March 2003 and earlier on 10 September 2001.

While the reasons for the rush in letting a businessman off-the-hook are known only to the MHA, the Delhi government acted "immediately", as advised. On 24 November 2011, the Assistant Public Prosecutor moved an application in court for "withdrawal from prosecution" of the cases under the three FIRs against Gupta in "public interest".

The cases against Gupta were related to committing fraud against a finance company, VLS Finance, forging letters of Members of Parliament and falsely using Mrs Gandhi's name as chief patron of his organisation.

The unusual haste and technique applied by the MHA for granting Gupta's wishes is obvious in this crucial letter, a copy of which is with The Sunday Guardian.Image 2nd

"This has reference to the various representations including the one dated 08.02.2011 of Shri S.P. Gupta, chairman Sunair Hotels Limited, to the Union Home Secretary regarding the case FIR No. 90/2000, 99/2002 and 148/2002 registered by the Delhi Police against the directors and office-bearers of M/s. Sunair Hotels Limited, New Delhi," writes A.K. Saxena, the director in charge of Delhi in the MHA.

"Shri S.P. Gupta, in his various representations to the Ministry of Home Affairs has contended that the FIR/charge-sheets filed by Delhi Police against him and other Directors/office-bearers are based on improper investigation by the Delhi Police and that the dispute between M/s. Sunair Hotels Limited and M/s. VLS Finance Limited is purely civil in nature and no criminality is involved in these cases," he states.

Saxena then refers to the "detailed report" that was called from the Vigilance Department of the Delhi police and agrees with Gupta. "From the perusal of material on record it appears that the dispute between M/s. Sunair Hotels Limited and M/s. VLS Finance Limited is of civil nature and that the FIRs have been registered by the Delhi Police ignoring certain vital issues."

According to the letter, the MHA then decided to seek legal opinion on Gupta's request for withdrawal of cases.

"It was decided in MHA to consult the Deptt of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice, who after carefully examining various issues involved in these cases, opined that as the courts are generally not interfering during the course of investigation, it would not be appropriate to take steps under Section 173 (8), Cr PC., as requested by Sh. S.P. Gupta in his representations," Saxena states.

"Moreover, from the status report submitted by the Delhi Police, it is observed that the charge-sheets/supplementary charge-sheets have already been filed by the Delhi Police in the courts and the three cases are at various stages," it adds.

"The Deptt. of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice has, however, opined that the power under Section 321 Cr.PC vested in government can be exercised in such cases in the interest of proper administration of justice and the paramount consideration in such cases is the administration of justice."

"The matter has been considered in detail carefully in MHA. As per the advice tendered by the Department of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice keeping in view the facts of these cases, the Home Department of Government of NCT of Delhi should urgently scrutinise the above cited case FIR No. 90/2000, 99/2002 and FIR No. 148/2002 registered by the Delhi Police for taking action under Section 321 of Cr. PC for withdrawal of prosecution immediately."

"This has the approval of the Union Home Minister," the letter concludes.

uccumbing to immense pressure mounted by the Opposition led by the BJP, Chidambaram was forced to withdraw the MHA's earlier order quashing the FIR against hotelier S.P. Gupta.

Chidambaram has strongly rejected the allegation and dismissed suggestions that there was any conflict of interest involved in the recommendation. Chidambaram said that the file related to Gupta's representations came to him only once on 4 May 2011, on which he categorically wrote that the Home Ministry should not give any directions of its own and it should only convey to the Delhi government the advice of the Ministry of Law on the whole issue.

We failed to get a response from MHA in this connection. MHA officials asked us to send an email with our queries. However, till the time of going to the press, the MHA had not responded to our email.

With inputs from the New Delhi bureau

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