The Supreme Court today, after noticing Solicitor General Tushar Mehta's appearance for the State of Uttarakhand challenging an order of the High Court for investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in a case, remarked that the Bench was glad to see the Solicitor General challenging CBI investigation.

The Court was considering a batch of SLPs by both the state government as well as the private contractor involved in a case, challenging the High Court's order for a CBI investigation into allegations of corruption at high level.

The Bench of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal remarked when Tushar Metha had just started making his submissions, "In a lighter vein, we want to say, we are glad to see SG challenging an order referring the case to CBI”.

"On behalf of the Uttarakhand government, My Lord", the SG replied. "Milords, I have no manner of doubt that CBI is a competent authority", Mehta added.

You are bound to say that”, remarked Justice Oka.

"CBI is competent to investigate, but facts do not justify CBI investigation", Tushar Mehta submitted.

Mehta then started making submissions on why according to him it was not appropriate to order a CBI investigation in the case. The Court interrupted to say that it felt that CBI is better equipped to carry out the investigation than the police and that a police investigation was anyways going on. The SG then interrupted to say that there was no police investigation prior to the order of the High Court. "I am not against CBI investigation, I am against criminal investigation", Mehta clarified.

Justice Oka then said that the matter requires investigation considering the findings of the High Court. When Mehta continued to make submissions, Justice Oka said, "We are not inclined to interfere".

The Uttarakhand High Court in the order had asked the CBI to investigate parking contract given to a contractor (two firms of real brothers) giving alleged undue advantage by ignoring the norms of the tender where allegedly certain high-ranking officials were involved. The Court observing that the conduct of the concerned officials, appeared to be hand in glove with the two firms, had noted, "...If the investigation is conducted by the State Police Authorities, there are little chances of fair investigation and it will be nothing, but a futile exercise".

Senior Advocate AM Singhvi appearing for the contractors, with respect to whom the CBI enquiry has been ordered by the High Court then started making submissions. "You are a contractor. What locus do you have?", Justice Oka asked. When Dr. Singhvi continued his submissions, Justice Oka interrupted and said that those were all matters for investigation.

"This order is challenged by both of you. SG has given a certificate that CBI will make a very fair investigation. So what is the problem for you", Justice Oka asked Dr. Singhvi.

Tushar Mehta then replied, "That was your lordship's question, which was kind of a sarcastic question".

When Dr. Singhvi submitted that the order of the High Court may be qualified further, Justice Okay said, "One of the petitioners is saying that there will be a fair investigation", referring to the SG remarks on CBI.

"Your lordship was being unnecessarily sarcastic", Mehta then commented.

To which Justice Oka said, "It was not a sarcastic question, it was a matter of fact".

"I never knew my answer would damage the matter. I should have been careful, in more than one way", the SG then said.

The Bench then assured that it would not record the statement of the SG and the question was asked in a lighter vein.

"Even if your lordships record, I have no difficulty. I stand by it", said Mehta in response.

The Bench then dismissed the SLPs while saying in the order that the order of the High Court for CBI enquiry should not be understood as findings recorded by the High Court on merits and that the CBI will conduct the investigation uninfluenced by the observations in the High Court's order.

A bench of Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rakesh Thapliyal of the High Court while observing the facts and circumstances of the case, noted certain questions that could be answered only through meticulous and impartial investigation only, where the questions were: 1) when the contract in respect whereof the certificate was issued, could not be sublet or assigned to another party; 2) how could the contract be awarded without respondent no. 5 submitting the stamp duty; 3) why the higher officers gave different figures of parked vehicles; 4) why higher officers increased the parking fee and reduced the time of parking without any justification, and; why respondents gave unnecessary extension for the period of parking; 5) why the proceedings against the Superintendent Engineer were closed on the specious ground of a writ petition being pending in this Court; 6) who are the persons involved in this matter and what is the estimated amount of loss incurred to the public exchequer etc.

The High Court while referring the matter to CBI for proper, impartial and fair investigation had observed, “The conduct of the concerned officials of the respondent department in awarding the parking contract to respondent no. 5 by giving undue advantage, by ignoring the norms in awarding the tender prima facie shows that they were in clutches of these two firms namely M/s Arun Construction and M/s Riddhim Associates, owned by two real brothers, running their firms from same place and same address and they appear to be very influential persons. The involvement of even higher-ranking officers of the State is apparent, as the Superintendent Engineer managed to have the inquiry against him dropped. If the investigation is conducted by the State Police Authorities, there are little chances of fair investigation and it will be nothing, but a futile exercise. Therefore, this Court is of the view that the conduct of the concerned officials, who appears to be hand in glove with the two firms owned by real brothers and the role of the said two firms should be investigated by an independent investigating agency like CBI and as such, after considering the material on record, this Court comes to the conclusion that the present matter falls within the principles enunciated by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court and we are satisfied that the material available on record does disclose a prima facie case calling for an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation”.

Cause Title: State Of Uttarakhand And Ors. v. Ashok Kumar Singh And Anr.