NEW DELHI: The trial in a corruption case against a CONCOR executive will begin soon, after a decade-long delay, as the CBI has now submitted a crucial forensic report and the sanction for prosecution before a court in a chargesheet filed in 2011, officials said.
The delay in the case against Container Corporation of India (CONCOR) executive Priyabrata Mitra was mainly attributed to getting the sanction for prosecution but during a review, it also came to light that a CBI official had kept a crucial forensic report furnished by the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) in 2012 under wraps.
Departmental proceedings against the erring officer have been initiated.
The case seems to have finally taken off after a pause of 10 years when a special court on Saturday set the date of August 14 for further proceedings, underlining the need for "expeditious hearings" from now on.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had filed the chargesheet in the case of alleged abuse of official position for personal gains in 2011 against seven people, including Mitra, the then managing director of Bharat Oil Company Naresh Manglani and customs department officials.
The agency did not file the mandatory sanction for prosecution against Mitra and others, needed from the Centre to proceed with the trial against them, along with the chargesheet, prompting the court to adjourn the matter sine die in 2012, officials said.
It is alleged that Mitra, in a criminal conspiracy with customs department officials, manipulated the weight as well as faked destruction of hazardous waste in the containers kept at the Inland Container Depot, Tughlakabad to benefit the oil company.
The company, in pursuance of the alleged conspiracy, had submitted bills to the tune of Rs 3.04 crore, which were stopped after a joint surprise check by the CBI with the vigilance department in 2010.
In case of government officials charged by the CBI, a sanction for prosecution from the department concerned has to be taken mandatorily by the agency and submitted before the court.
After a long wait of nine years, on October 26, 2021, the CBI submitted the government's sanction to prosecute Mitra to the court and informed that it was declined the same in the case of other chargesheeted accused -- superintendents Om Pal Singh and Gagan Gupta and Inspector Paramjit Singh -- by the customs department.
It is the government's prerogative to grant or decline the sanction.
It has been "declined" against the three customs officials and hence, the case against them will not proceed, the agency said.
"The file was subsequently revived on October 26, 2021 after the intimation regarding sanction was filed by the IO (investigating officer). Undoubtedly, the matter requires expeditious proceedings hereon."
"The IO is directed to appear on the next date and the Ld PP (Public Prosecutor) for CBI, who has recently been posted to this court, is directed to be fully conversant with the file," the court noted in its July 2 order and fixed the matter for August 14 for further proceedings.
If the delay in the government's sanction was not enough, a major lacuna also surfaced on the part of the agency, which recently filed a crucial evidence in the case -- a 10-year-old forensic report from the CFSL dated September 10, 2012 -- that has been lying in the agency's closet since then.
Terming it an enormous delay, the court had sought an explanation from the agency as regards why the report was not filed for a decade.
The CBI conducted an enquiry, which showed that the previous investigating officer, DSP Satendra Singh, had not handed over the complete charge of the case to his successor.
The central agency, after coming to know of the major lacuna, opened a disciplinary case against Singh.
Delay in granting the sanction for prosecution by government departments has been a long-standing grievance and was flagged by the Standing Committee for Department of Personnel, Public Grievances and Law and Justice in its March 2022 report.
The committee had expressed concerns over the vigilance cases, including those involving serious allegations, pending sanction for prosecution beyond the stipulated time limit of three months.
"The committee is strongly concerned to note that not granting sanction for prosecution within the stipulated time limit has become a routine affair," it had noted and recommended that the relevant provisions be amended and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) empowered to take necessary action in such cases where the competent authority fails to grant the sanction for prosecution within the stipulated time limit without valid reasons.