2015: Essar e-mail leak, other corporate houses engaged SC
Sanjeev Kumar, Ranjit Kumar Sinha January 1, 2016
A verdict castigating RBI for "withholding" information about defaulters, failed bid of jailed Sahara chief Subrata Roy to walk out of prison and matters of Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis and Adanis engaged the Supreme Court in 2015 which also saw the Essar e-mail leak case alleging a political-bureaucratic-corporate nexus.
The year gone by also brought huge relief to telecom major Bharti Cellular's chief Sunil Bharti Mittal and Essar's promotor Ravi Ruia as the apex court in January quashed the CBI court order summoning them as accused in a graft case of additional spectrum allocation during NDA rule in 2002.
However, the relief to Ruias was shortlived as the biggest bombshell was dropped in March by an NGO which came out with the leaked internal e-mails of Essar Group showing high and mighty from the world of politics, business, bureaucracy and media in nexus before the top court which is examining the issues raised in the petition for CBI probe.
Bad luck for Essar's Ravi and Anshuman Ruia continued as the apex court in September dismissed their plea challenging the special CBI court's jurisdiction to hold trial against them in a case arising out of the probe in 2G spectrum scam.
Luck was also not in favour of Roy as his repeated efforts to impress the top court with various plans to garner Rs 10,000 crore to walk out of the jail failed.
Along with the hearing on Sahara chief, the proceedings relating to coalgate engaged the Supreme Court throughout the year which saw former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla getting a relief from appearing as accused in a trial court in connection with alleged irregularities in the allocation of coal block Talabira-II in Odisha.
Names of Singh's former cabinet colleagues P Chidambaram and DMK's Dayanidhi Maran echoed in various proceedings due to Aircel Maxis deal matter in which the DMK leader has been chargesheeted.
Chidambaram's alleged role in giving FIPB clearance to the venture in 2006 as the then Finance Minister was covered by the CBI in its probe report placed in the top court which was monitoring the investigation in the matter having overseas ramification.
While top corporates and politicians were hogging the limelight in the corporate legal matters, the Supreme Court at the fag end of the year gave a body blow to Reserve Bank of India (RBI) by castigating it for shielding the defaulters by not disclosing their names under the Right to Information Act.
Telecom major Vodafone Mobile Services Ltd (VMSL) faced opposition from the Centre which approached the apex court against the TDSAT order allowing provisional merger of the licences of four entities - Vodafone East, Vodafone Cellular, Vodafone South and Vodafone Digilink into VMSL.
The apex court asked VMSL to pay Rs 2,000 crore to the government in pursuance of the proposed merger of licences of its four entities into itself.
However, issues of gas pricing saw Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) in tug of war with the Centre over Krishna Godavari basin and Panna, Mukta and Tapti Oil and gas fields.
While the petition filed by CPI-M's Gurudas Dasgupta and an NGO was vigorously contested by RIL, the company got a relief when the apex court rejected Centre's plea seeking removal of a foreign arbitrator appointed by it.
Much before the Reliance Jio service was launched, it was also a subject matter in the Supreme Court after a PIL filed by an NGO challenged the grant of 4G licence to the company and sought quashing of the permission by the government for providing voice telephony on Broadband Wireless Access spectrum and pitched for a court-monitored CBI investigation in the alleged Rs 40,000 crore scam.
Corporate houses like Tatas and Adanis also got relief from the Supreme Court which restrained the Maharashtra government from imposing penalty on the sales tax levied on Tata Sons Ltd over the use of the TATA brand name by its subsidiaries while Adani Power Ltd had a temporary relief on the issue of compensatory tariff payable to it.
Real estate majors Supertech and DLF also had a tough time in the apex court. While observing that "developers cannot take investors for a ride," the top court directed Supertech to refund the money of the house buyers whom the real estate major wanted to relocate them from the site of construction which was in violation of the law.
DLF was in the news over the proceedings related to the deposit of Rs 6,630 crore fine imposed on it by Competition Commission of India as the court said that its appeal would be commenced only after full payment of the amount.
Nestle, maker of popular noodle Maggi, also made headlines in the apex court as the company as well as food regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) were battling against each other over the ban on the 2-minute fast food.