Rajendra Sethia trial to run on daily basis, rules apex court
New Delhi, May 18 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday directed a lower court to hold the trial of NRI businessman Rajendra Singh Sethia - once described as world's biggest bankrupt - on a day-to-day basis. The trial would eventually commence 27 years after a case started against Sethia for allegedly defrauding the Punjab National Bank (PNB) of $10 million.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a first information report against Sethia on March 1, 1985. He faces charges of conspiracy, cheating and forgery.
Directing the additional chief metropolitan magistrate to complete the trial within six months by holding daily hearings, a bench of Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice Dipak Misra told Sethia's counsel Yakesh Anand that the "trial proceedings could not be quashed on the grounds of delay or laches".
"What is your proposition in law for the quashing of the proceedingsIJ" Justice Misra asked Anand as he sought to focus on the delay of 27 years and that the trial has not yet commenced.
Reiterating Justice Misra's view, Justice Chauhan said: "Whatever you may say, this is not a case for the quashing of the (trial) proceedings."
"You have a right to say whatever you say" but tell it to the trial court, the court told Anand.
Senior counsel Ashok Bhan, appearing for the CBI, told the court that the accused were trying to delay and derail the trial and get benefit in the end. He said they have been seeking adjournment in the trial court on the pretext of matter pending before the apex court.
The apex court, meanwhile, modified the Delhi High Court direction which said that prosecution would lead the secondary evidence to prove the offence of forgery in respect of bills of lading and the direction to frame the additional charges for committing forgery.
It said that the trial court would take a call on framing of additional charges on the basis of evidence before it and any other additional material adduced by the investigating agency.
The court granted liberty to both the parties to produce evidence and documents in support of their case.
Sethia is facing charges that as the managing director of ESAl(Commodities) ltd., he allegedly entered into conspiracy with the officers of the london branch of the Punjab National Bank to secure loans on the basis of certain contracts that his company had.
Sethia was arrested after the FIR was filec against him. He was released Feb 13, 1987, after spending nearly two years in judicial custody.
Amarjit Singh, the then PNB general manager in london and co-accused in the case, was arrested March 16, 1985, but was released a month later on April 16, 1985.
The additional chief metropolitan magistrate framed the charges against Sethia and the co-accused Amarjit Singh by its order dated March 13, 1986, and April 12, 1986. However, the court dropped the charges under sections 467, 486 and 471 of the Indian penal Code relating to forgery and selling goods marked with a counterfeit property mark.
These charges farmed by the ACMM were challenged both by Sethia and Amarjit Singh and the investigating agency as well.
The high court by its order of Feb 10, 2006, dismissed the plea of Sethia and Amarjit Singh and allowed the petition filed by the CBI. It was this order of the single judge of the high court that was before the apex court.
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