The Supreme Court has asked the Delhi High Court to find out whether 98-year-old former Union minister Shiela Kaul is medically fit to depose before a trial court for framing of charges against her in the alleged 1996 government accommodation allotment scam.
The apex court set aside the order of high court which had dismissed the plea for exemption of her personal appearance in the case without considering her medical reports.
Kaul, the erstwhile Union urban development minister in Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao's cabinet, is accused of conspiring with her then additional private secretary Rajan Lala and private assistant R K Sharma for making out-of-turn allotment of government accommodation for making pecuniary gains from alottees between 1992 and 1995.
A bench of justices TS Thakur and Vikramajit Sen said the medical report and the deposition of a doctor before the trial court "escaped the attention" of the high court rendering the order unsustainable. "Whether or not the appellant can be described as a person of unsound mind would largely depend upon the value which the high court attached to the report submitted by the medical board and the deposition of Dr. Khandelwal," the bench said. "Suffice it is to say that the process of appreciation of material concerning the medical condition of the appellant and her alleged incapacity to make her defence was inevitable. In as much as the same has escaped the attention of the high court, the order passed by it is rendered unsustainable," it said.
The apex court noted that the report of the medical board also prima facie suggested that the plea raised by her was not wholly without any basis and referred the matter back to the high court to look into the issue afresh. "In the result, we allow these appeals, set aside the order passed by the high court insofar as the same dismissed the appeal qua order dated May 9, 2012 passed by the trial court and remit back the matter to the high court for a fresh disposal of the matter in accordance with law," the bench said.
Observing that law does not provide any "immunity" to the aged, a CBI court had directed Kaul to appear before it for framing of charges for her trial.
Relying on the opinion of an AIIMS medical board which had found Kaul as being able to understand questions put to her, special CBI judge Pradeep Chaddah directed the former Congress leader to appear before it.
It had on April 9, 2012 asked the AIIMS director to constitute a medical board to examine Kaul, who appeared before the board on April 23 and was kept under observation till April 26, during which she was examined by six doctors.