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Essar Leaks: SC issues notices to Essar Group and Centre on PIL seeking court-monitored probe

March23/ 2015

New Delhi,March 23: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to Essar Group and Central government on a PIL, demanding a court-monitored investigation into an alleged unholy nexus of Essar Group with politicians, bureaucrats and journalists to promote its business interests.

A bench led by Justice T S Thakur have six weeks to Essar and Centre to appear and file their replies on the PIL was filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation.

The petition was moved a day after the Indian Express reported how a “whistleblower” had decided to go public with Essar Group’s internal company communications — the correspondence are attached to the petition as instances of alleged impropriety.

The court, at this juncture, refrained from asking the petitioner to either disclose the identity of the whistleblower or to implead as parties all those named in the PIL.

Urging the court to either direct the CBI or set up a special investigation team to probe the alleged complicity adversely impacting matters of public policy, the CPIL has asked for framing guidelines to regulate relationships of big corporate groups with individuals in positions of power and influence.

The company’s communications, the PIL contended, “indicate how Essar has been cultivating ministers, politicians, bureaucrats and journalists in order to serve its business interests.”

“Essar, in turn, apparently gets favoured from such influential persons who can take executive decisions, change public policies, raise questions in Parliament, leak confidential government documents and plant stories in the media. This information is being placed before the Hon’ble Court by the petitioner’s society for its kind consideration and appropriate directions,” the petition stated.

On the source of such information, the CPIL said it had procured the internal communications “through a confidential source whose identity needs to be fully protected” as a “whisteblower”.

The PIL referred to a body of correspondence, which included purported emails and memos on meetings with government officials and alleged favours to ministers, bureaucrats and journalists.

The internal emails and documents, the petition stated, “revealed how major corporates like Essar manage to influence the political executive, the bureaucracy, the police and the media in order to serve its business interests rather than public interest which they are legally obligated to uphold”.

It contended that the emails showed how Essar allegedly “attempted to bribe by bestowing favours on ministers, top politicians, bureaucrats and police officers in violation of various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.”

The PIL drew a parallel with the Niira Radia tape case in which the contentious nature of intercepted telephonic conversations of former corporate lobbyist Radia with business tycoons, politicians, bureaucrats and journalists had prompted the Supreme Court to order a CBI inquiry into 14 instances.

The CPIL said that the writ petition sought to initiate a crackdown on the phenomena of “corrupt nexus” between business and government. “The nation was shocked when recently several arrests were made and FIR lodged in connection with secret and confidential papers being systematically copied and allegedly passed over to powerful commercial interests,” it pointed out.

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