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Supreme Court to decide whether PIL seeking court-monitored probe into PNB scam is maintainable

Supreme Court to decide whether PIL seeking court-monitored probe into PNB scam is maintainable

The Supreme Court today said that it will decide whether a PIL which seeks a court-monitored probe into the biggest banking fraud is maintainable or not.

The Supreme Court today said that it will decide whether a PIL which seeks a court-monitored probe into the biggest banking fraud is maintainable or not.

The arguments will be heard on April 23. "We would first like to hear arguments on the maintainability of the petition seeking monitoring of the probe", a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud said. However, the CJI reportedly added that "prima-facie we are of the view that the court cannot monitor it".

In the wake of the PNB fraud, Advocate Vineet Dhanda had filed a PIL which not only sought a direction for initiation of deportation proceedings against Nirav Modi and others allegedly involved in the scam, but also several directives. Like a direction to the finance ministry to frame guidelines on the grant and disbursal of loans involving big amounts, besides ensuring safety and recovery of such loans.

Dhanda, in fact, asked for a direction to fasten liabilities on the employees of a bank for sanctioning loans on the basis of deficient documents and said loans should also be recovered by attaching the properties of such bank officials even after their retirement. The plea furthermore asked for a court-monitored probe into the banking fraud, including the role of the bank's top management, and sought the setting up of an experts body to deal with cases of bad banking debts in the country.

The top court's remarks followed Attorney General K.K. Venugopal's arguments that the petition should be dismissed as multiple agencies like the CBI, Enforcement Directorate, the Income Tax department and the Serious Fraud Investigation Office were already independently probing the scam. In fact, CBI has already registered two FIRs - one on January 31 and another in February - against diamantaire Modi, his relative Mehul Choksi of Gitanjali Gems and others for allegedly defrauding PNB. "Also, these matters pertained to executive domain," Venugopal had pointed out.

Even in February, the Centre, represented by the Attorney General, had vehemently opposed the PIL on the same grounds. The top court at the time had said that it would step in only when agencies fail to carry out the investigation properly and that the government must get a free hand to probe the scam. "These are publicity-oriented litigations," the bench had added, accusing the petitioner lawyer of "playing to the gallery".

Meanwhile, investigations into the fraud have picked up pace with the former PNB deputy manager Gokulnath Shetty confessing before the ED that he issued the first LoU to Nirav Modi in 2010 and that since then all LoUs worth Rs 13,700 crore were issued by him. However, he blamed Rajesh Jindal, who was GM of PNB's Brady House branch between August 2009 and May 2011, for directing the fraud. He also blamed Modi and Choksi for blackmailing him from 2010 to 2017, confirmed ED sources.
Moreover, yesterday a special CBI court in Mumbai issued non-bailable warrants against the prime accused named above.

Incidentally, Dhanda was reportedly the second person to file a PIL relating to the PNB scam. Another plea filed by Advocate Manohar Lal Sharma on a similar issue has not come up for hearing yet.

With PTI inputs