Free Press Journal

Don’t take witness for a ride in cross-examination: Court


Madhu Koda

New Delhi: A special court today warned the lawyer of an accused in a coal scam case in which ex-Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda and eight others are facing trial, not to take the witness “for a ride” during cross-examination. The court, which commenced recording of evidence, made the observation when a defence counsel was repeatedly asking “unreasonable questions” to CBI witness B B Mangalmurti, currently the Principal Secretary (Law) of Jharkhand.

“You (defence counsel) are asking various unreasonable questions to the witness. Cross-examination is not to take the witness for a ride,” Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar said and cautioned that he would impose cost if such questions were repeated.

Mangalmurti informed the court about the process to grant sanction to prosecute two government servants — Basant Kumar Bhattacharya and Bipin Bihari Singh — in the case. Bhattacharya was the then section officer in Department of Mines of Jharkhand, while Bipin Bihari Singh was then Director Mines in the state. During recording of evidence, Mangalmurti said the December 5, 2014, orders of sanction to prosecute these two accused were issued under his signatures.

“CBI had made a request to the government of Jharkhand to consider according of sanction to prosecute the aforesaid two officers in the present case,” he said. During the cross-examination by defence counsel, he denied suggestions that grant of sanction to prosecute the two accused were given without proper application of mind and in a mechanical manner.

The recording of testimony of Mangalmurti was completed today and the court fixed the matter for recording of further evidence tomorrow. The case pertains to alleged irregularities in allocation of Rajhara North (Central and Eastern) coal block in Jharkhand to VISUL. The CBI, in its charge sheet, had alleged that though Jharkhand government and the Steel Ministry did not recommend VISUL’s case for the allocation, the 36th Screening Committee recommended the coal block to the accused firm.

Besides Koda and ex-Coal Secretary H C Gupta, the court had framed charges against ex-Jharkhand Chief Secretary Ashok Kumar Basu, Bhattacharya, Binod B Singh, Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd (VISUL), its director Vaibhav Tulsyan, Koda’s alleged close aide Vijay Joshi and chartered accountant Navin Kumar Tulsyan in the case.

The court framed charges against them for alleged offences under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) and 420 (cheating) of the IPC and under the relevant provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act. On July 14, the court had ordered to put these accused on trial.