The Chhattisgarh government on Thursday told the Supreme Court that Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel never met any high court judge in connection with the Nagrik Apurti Nigam scam (NAN scam) after the Centre’s counsel had indicated his probable complicity in the scam.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the state government, submitted before a bench headed by Chief Justice U.U. Lalit: “We took instructions. The Chief Minister never met any high court judge.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the ED, replied that he had only referred to a WhatsApp chat.
In the previous hearing, Mehta had cited a WhatsApp chat of an alleged close aide to the Chief Minister that a judge had met the CM two days before bail was granted to some of the accused in the NAN scam case.
Meanwhile, the bench, also comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi and S. Ravindra Bhat, declined to hear the matter further due to paucity of time and non-availability of the special bench to wrap up the hearing. Justice Lalit is scheduled to demit office on November 8.
The top court ordered re-sealing of the documents filed by the ED and the state government and directed the registry to list the matter before an appropriate bench in the week of November 14.
The ED had registered a money laundering case in connection with the scam against two IAS officers. The NAN scam surfaced in 2015, and those involved have been accused of supplying low quality rice, grams, salt etc. The ED moved the apex court seeking transfer of trial from Chhattisgarh alleging a senior government official attempting to weaken the predicate offence against the accused.
On October 18, the ED told the Supreme Court the judge who had granted bail to the accused persons in the scam in Chhattisgarh had met the Chief Minister of the state, two days before the bail order was passed.
Mehta had submitted that the judge met the CM two days before the bail and “if this isn’t shocking, I don’t know!” He added that the status report is being exchanged with the accused before it is being filed. Mehta pressed that free and fair trial has not been carried out in the case.
(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with a modified headline)