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Not stalling trial in 2G case: CBI

Sunday, 24 August 2014 - 12:48pm IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: PTI

The CBI has dismissed the charge that it was stalling trial in the 2G case as alleged by an NGO and maintained that it has done everything to ensure smooth progress in the hearing.

Agency sources said acting promptly on the August 12 directions of the apex court, the CBI handed over all the documents and records to eminent lawyer KK Venugopal, who would pursue the matter in the Supreme Court.

This included the suggestion submitted by CBI Director Ranjit Sinha in which he had pointed out about not taking on record an opinion of Law and Justice Ministry which had claimed that there was no case made out against Reliance Telecom Ltd (RTL).

The sources said that the opinion of the CBI director was in response to a petition filed by RTL seeking quashing of FIR filed by the agency against it.

The CBI director did not act suo moto and rather was asked to give his opinion in the matter which he did after perusing the entire case records, the sources said.

The documents were handed to Venugopal for his perusal as he would be making a submission in the Supreme Court on September 2 in response to a PIL filed by Centre for Public Interest Litigation, one of petitioners on whose plea 122 licences for the 2G spectrum were scrapped on February 2, 2012 by the apex court.

The opinion of the director had been sent to the then CBI counsel UU Lalit, who was later elevated as Supreme Court judge, the sources said.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, claimed that the CBI director was attempting to reopen the whole probe on the premise that the charge sheet was based on a wrong premise.

Bhushan said that the charge sheet was filed on the premise that since RTL was not eligible for the 2G licences, it created Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd as its front company to secure the radio waves while violating the clause of Unified Access Service Licences (UASL) guidelines.

Ali, founder of NGO, HAQ:Centre for Child Rights, Kumari, Director for Centre for Social Research, and Asthana, a child right activist lawyer, said that categorising juveniles in such a way and trying and putting them in jails along with adults could lead to their becoming "hardened criminals".

This view, however, was not shared by Tulsi and Phoolka, who have taken matters of children protection in the Supreme Court as they feel that government has adopted a welcome move which prevents children from exploitation at the hands of criminal gangs which specifically hire minors.

Sharing similar views, Mathur said the current justice system was not helping in reformation of juveniles in conflict with law and this amendment was a way to tell these offenders that they won't be let off easily for committing heinous crimes.

"We must try this amendment and give the law a chance to see if it acts as a deterrent to the juveniles committing heinous crimes. The juveniles will know that they will not go scot-free but can be kept in jail for a long time. Every law goes through a process of evolution and we must give it a chance," Mathur said.

Kumari, however, opined that fixing an age group of juvenile offenders is not the right way to address the issue as similar nature of crime could also be committed by a child who is a month less than 16 years.

Her view was echoed by Ali who said that trying juveniles at par with adults would "not deter them from committing heinous offences because if it could, then incidents of crime committed by adults should have come down by now".

"This amendment should go to the parliamentary standing committee for further discussion. No need to rush with it.

Failure of the present juvenile justice system does not mean we send children to the adult justice system and expose them to hardened criminals," she said.

However, now it reportedly appears that the director is of the view that on the day of award of licences, RTL had given up the ownership of Swan Telecom, Bhushan said.

The Supreme Court is also expected to be briefed about the probe being conducted by the CBI to investigate alleged link between Tata Group and Unitech for securing 2G spectrum.

Also read: CBI registers preliminary enquiry against Tata group in 2G spectrum case; Nira Radia tapes sent to lab

During the last hearing Bhushan had alleged that Deputy Inspector General Santosh Rastogi had been removed from the probe, a charge denied by the CBI.

The CBI clarified to Venugopal that the allegation made in the apex court were misleading as Rastogi, a 1998 Maharashtra cadre officer, was never a member of the probe team and that he had volunteered himself for a transfer to another department four months ago.

However, in compliance of the Supreme Court order, the transfer of the DIG had been cancelled and he continues to function in his earlier capacity, the sources said.

CBI has already registered a preliminary enquiry in the matter and has also sought a report of Serious Fraud Investigating Office under Ministry of Corporate Affairs which had claimed that Unitech was a front company for the Tata group in securing 2G spectrum licence.

Venugopal was informed about alleged "insubordination" on part of the DIG as he had recused himself from probing the Tata-Unitech deal despite clear orders from the Director CBI to do so.

Showing the flip-side of the amendment, Asthana, who has been fighting cases involving children, said the scope of rehabilitating juveniles who will be sent to jails "will narrow down as they too will become hardened criminals".

Tulsi, however, was of the view that the amendment was important because juveniles were undergoing "exploitation" at the hands of gangs which know that a person below the age of 18, even by one day, can't be punished severely under the present legal system.

Phoolka, who has been representing NGO 'Bachpan Bachao Andolan' in several cases, shared similar opinion and said the amendment does not compromise protection of children.

"It aims at punishing only those juveniles between 16 and 18 years of age who are involved in heinous crimes, like rape and murder, which entail a minimum of seven years jail term.

"Here the age limit of the juvenile has not been lowered but a law has been proposed to deal with the juveniles with criminal mindset," he said.
According to the amendment, Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) will decide whether cases where a juvenile is involved in a heinous crime, would be tried under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act or normal trial court.

At present, if an accused person is found to be a juvenile (i.e., under 18 years), he is tried by the Juvenile Justice Board and if convicted, is sent to a juvenile reform home for a maximum period of three years.

According to the latest report of National Crime Records Bureau, there have been 43,506 crimes registered against minors under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Special Local Law (SLL) by juveniles and 28,830 had been committed by those aged between 16 and 18 years of age.

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