Venugopal Must Remain ED Counsel, Says Apex Court
NEW DELHI: In a huge embarrassment to the government, the Supreme Court on Wednesday disapproved of the Enforcement Directorate’s stand to remove senior counsel K K Venugopal from the 2G cases, and directed the CBI and ED to provide him with all the documents and briefings of their investigations and the status of different cases in the future.
The direction by the top court assumes significance as the Ministry of Finance had removed Venugopal in June this year, citing conflict of interest. The communication from the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance dated June 22, 2015 stated, “It has come to the notice of the department that K K Venugopal, special counsel for ED, submitted a note on behalf of Rajeshwar Singh on September 9, 2014 before the Supreme Court seeking directions of the court to the Union of India to comply with the order and directions issued by CAT in its order on December 24, 2013 for his absorption as Deputy Director of Enforcement. This action on the part of Venugopal, without any instruction from either ED or Department of Revenue, was against the decision taken by the government.”
Rajeshwar Singh was then a UP state police cadre official, who was the main investigating officer in the 2G money laundering probe case.
The apex court bench, headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justice Arun Mishra, on Wednesday asked Venugopal to continue as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the case, and asked him not to leave the case when it was in its final stages. “We want you to be with us as amicus curiae,” the bench said. Venugopal, who was recently conferred with the Padma Vibhushan, said he did not want to continue as a lawyer in the case and referred to the communication he had received from an Under Secretary level officer from the Revenue Department about his removal. However, he gave in to the insistence of the bench that it will not let him go and said he has no option but to assist.
The bench, before asking Venugopal to assist them, said, “We know how to tell them (CBI and ED) that Venugopal will continue in the 2G matter as counsel.”
The court then recalled the passage of an order by the Ministry of Finance that had asked Venugopal not to appear for ED before the court.
The decision was supported by Prashant Bhushan of the NGO CPIL and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.