Trial And Time

Judgements and Victims

Sudip Bhattacharyya

Judicial verdict in the Salman Khan hit and run case has been held as a watershed judgement in as much as it has established that law prevails over all including rich and celebrity. Bollywood and his fans however feel that the punishment was harsher because of his celebrity status. The case will now go under appeal and people still have to wait for the climax. But where are the victims? 1 dead and 4 injured, the victims have received no compensation in the long 13 years and this does not apparently find a mention in the judgement.

Jaylalitha has been sworn in as the chief minister of the Indian state Tamil Nadu, less than a fortnight after being cleared of corruption. Last year, a court sentenced Ms Jaylalitha to four years for corruption. But an appeal court overruled this, allowing her to return to politics. Eminent jurists have attributed simple arithmetical miscalculation leading to this acquittal.

Let us look into another case of celebrity trial viz the case of Subroto Roy of Sahara Paribar: This case is dragging on indefinitely. Subroto Roy has been behind bars for about 14 months because he has so far not been able to fulfil the bail conditions. But so far, as it appears to common men, it is a case of violation of SEBI regulations that are necessary for ensuring investors' protection; No criminality has really been established yet since not many investors have apparently come with a complaint or at SEBI's request, for refund. The amount of deposit, sought by SEBI from Sahara for returning to the investors therefore appears to be questionable, and victim investors, not yet identifiable. Although company's operations have not been closed, where lies the future of the large number of employees of the group—this question may come up in near future.

In the above cases, the prosecution does not seem to have a grip and the Judicial decisions apparently not uniformly logical. This writer also finds the following judicial decisions and prosecution proceedings somewhat incomprehensible:

Saradha: The group collected around Rs 200 to 300 billion from over 1.7 million depositors before it collapsed in April 2013. In the aftermath of the scandal, the State Government of West Bengal where the Saradha Group and most of its investors were based instituted an inquiry commission to investigate the collapse. The State government also set up a fund of Rs 5 billion to ensure that low-income investors were not bankrupted. While all press reports quoting CBI sources indicate some association of these accused with Saradha, no specific wrongful acts are mentioned or evidence adduced thereof, at least in public. Even though 4 FIRs have been lodged for criminal offences, the prime accused has not been seriously mapped with specific charges or prosecuted with any diligence for early completion of trial and adequate punishment. Why no significant amount of illegal diversion or investment or stashing away of investors' funds have been unearthed, as yet, is a moot point. Now the question of returning investors' money has been forgotten. Here too, no one is now concerned about the victims viz investors and employees.

MPS, Rose valley, iCore: Albeit recent cases, SEBI and Enforcement Directorate have been pursuing these companies for quite some time particularly since Saradha blow up. So why no homework was done, even, after Saradha experience, for a speedy trial and punishment. Why nobody thought about employees' plight in case of sudden closure of company's operation and bank accounts. All these issues have come to the fore. As a matter of fact there was not really any run on these funds before closure and it is likely that not investors' complaints, ab initio, were received either. These are gross irresponsibility and inefficiency on the part of authorities.

It is also seen that some accused get bail some are not trusted for bail. Decisions on granting bail and delay in processing requests appear to be not fully reasonable in the context of the following decisions:

Vital information leak out by govt. Employees in Delhi: Bail seems to have been granted in a jiffy even when there are reportedly much evidence of leaking classified information.

High Court quashes FIR against MP Governor Yadav in MPPEB scam. The processing in this case was very fast.

So also in Salman case when the High Court gave bail in 2.05 hrs time, and on the following day allowed his appeal against the conviction, while it took about 13 years for the conviction to happen.

It appears therefore that while bails were refused in cases involving alleged ponzi companies of West Bengal and cases of violation of SEBI rules, they have been granted in some other different type but grave cases in other parts of the country. Also in the former cases, proceedings and decisions were inordinately delayed, but it came fast, in the latter cases.

So basically the central agencies like SEBI, CBI and ED must realise that their basic responsibility is not only to book criminals, but at the same time to provide protection to investors, employees and any other victims. They have to justify their action by completing investigation and putting up unbiased findings before the Court within a reasonable period of time.

Even the court must try its bit to ensure justice to all affected by properly monitoring and giving directions to the prosecution and giving decisions with comprehensive answer to all doubts. It must always keep in view the need for early decision and compensation to the victims.

Vol. 47, No. 52, July 5 - 11, 2015