New Delhi, Apr 5: Government was at loggerheads with the CBI in the Supreme Court today over the agency's decision to appoint senior advocate U U Lalit as special public prosecutor in the 2G spectrum case, saying he did not meet the eligibility criteria for the task.
Asked by the apex court to issue notification for the appointment by today, Government raised technical objections to Lalit's appointment saying that he should have worked under the state or the Union government for at least seven years to be eligible as the case has been filed under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
Attorney General G E Vahanvati told a bench of justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly that under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the special prosecutor has to be working under the state or the Union government for at least seven years.
Senior Advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for the CBI, contended that Lalit had been in the lawyer's panel for the Maharastra government and the Centre for 15 years and five years respectively and he fulfills the criteria.
But the Attorney General submitted that being in the panel is not sufficient and one should be the government's standing counsel for seven years and sought one week time from the court to come out with other name for the post.
The court also said that the Act does not mention the word “Standing counsel” and the objection raised was highly technical which should be given “reasonable” interpretation.
The bench, which said that Lalit is one of the most competent persons for the case, allowed the government to make its stand clear on the issue by Friday.
Vahanvati said there were some apprehensions that Lalit's appointment as the SPP could be challenged at any stage and it may derail the entire prosecution of the case.
The CBI has registered cases against former Telecom Minister A Raja and others under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
The CBI had on April 1 informed the apex court that Lalit will be appointed as special public prosecutor for assisting the special court, set up for the exclusive trial of the 2G spectrum case.
Venugopal had told the court that the agency had been facing lot of difficulties in finalising the name of special public prosecutor to lead a team of its prosecutors in assisting the special court for trial of the 2G case.
He had said the CBI faced difficulty as most of the senior counsel have been hired by one or the other party.
Maintaining that in the given circumstances, Lalit was the best choice as CBI's special public prosecutor, Venugopal had pointed out that he had a vast experience in various criminal laws.
The agency in its first charge sheet alleged that Raja, former Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura, Raja's personal secretary R K Chandolia, Shahid Usman Balwa and Sanjay Chandra entered into a conspiracy for manipulating the procedure for allocation of spectrum with the aim of favouring companies like Swan Telecom and Unitech Group.
Others named in the charge sheet include Vinod Goenka, a Director of Mumbai-based DB Realty, which was also the promoter of Etisalat DB, Sanjay Chandra, Managing Director of Gurgaon-based real estate company Unitech and Unitech Wireless(Tamil Nadu) Pvt Ltd and Gautam Doshi, Hari Nair and Surendra Pipara, Group Managing Director and two Senior Vice Presidents of Mumbai-based Reliance Telecom Company. PTI