New Delhi: Senior advocate Anand Grover, who was appointed by the Supreme Court as the special public prosecutor (SPP) for the 2G spectrum scam cases in 2014, has filed an application with the apex court asking it to relieve him of his responsibilities.
The Wire has learnt that Grover’s application, which was filed and registered on Thursday, is likely to be mentioned and taken up by the court in the next two weeks. His decision to do so comes on the back of two notifications in the last two weeks by the Modi government that were aimed at removing him from the appeals process.
In his application, a copy of which is with The Wire, Grover indicates that “there is not much of a role” for him as special public prosecutor after the recent appointment of additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta also as SPP.
On February 8, 2018, a government notification appointed Mehta as the SPP for conducting “prosecution, appeals/revision or other proceedings arising out of the cases related to 2G spectrum investigated by the Delhi Special Police Establishment (CPI) in the court of special judge (2G spectrum cases), CBI, New Delhi and appellate/revisional courts”.
As The Wire reported at the time, the February 8 notification sparked confusion for two reasons. Firstly, because the the original 2014 central government notifications that appointed Grover also indicated that he would have a role to play in any appeal proceedings as well. And secondly, the February 8 notification that announced Mehta’s appointment was silent on whether he would cover the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cases arising out of the 2G scam as well.
What added to this confusion was that Grover had already started the preparation work for filing the appeal.
On February 16, 2018, however, the government issued two notifications that sought to shed some clarity on Mehta and Grover’s respective roles.
The first notification, shown below, states that it supersedes the February 8 notification and appoints Mehta as the SPP for “conducting appeals, revisions or other proceedings before the High Court (s) and the Supreme Court arising out of all or any judgement in the cases relating relating to 2G spectrum…”
The words “high court” and “Supreme Court” have been added here in addition to noting that Mehta will be SPP for “all or any judgement in the cases relating to 2G spectrum”.
The second notification (shown below) is more curious. It is dated February 16 but the e-gazette’s website says it was issued on February 19. Its primary purpose, however, appears to be to retroactively amend the terms of Grover’s initial appointment in 2014 by stating the words “appeals/revisions or other proceedings arising out of the cases related to 2G spectrum investigated by the Delhi Special Police Establishment (CBI) in the Court of Special Judge (2G spectrum cases)…” will be substituted with “arising out of the cases related to 2G Spectrum investigated by the Delhi Special Police Establishment (CBI) in the Court of Special Judge (2G spectrum cases)…”.
In other words, the crucial words “appeals/revisions” have been removed, thus appearing to limit Grover’s role. Importantly, the second notification also appears to say nothing about the November 27, 2014 government notification issued by the finance ministry which appointed Grover as SPP for cases under the PMLA and arising out of the 2G spectrum scam.
Mehta and CBI
In his application to the Supreme Court, Grover notes that four days after Mehta’s appointment on February 8, officers from the Central Bureau of Investigation met with him. According to his note, they “impressed upon the applicant that the notification [to appoint Mehta] had not originated from the CBI.
“As there was uncertainty of the applicant continuing as the Special Public Prosecutor in the 2G cases, the Applicant by his letter dated
12-02-2018 requested a written confirmation be made available for him to continue working on the appeal. It was also recorded that the Officers had agreed to meet with the applicant on the 19-02-2018,” the application notes.
However, after the February 16 notification – which the application describes as “disallowing the applicant to conduct appeals or revisions”, and which was apparently communicated to Grover only on February 21 – it became clear there was not much of a role left to play.
Venugopal and Grover
Grover took over as special public prosecutor in 2014, following the apex court’s intervention, when his predecessor (U.U. Lalit) was appointed a Supreme Court judge. The court accepted the-then CBI counsel K.K. Venugopal’s suggestion to put Grover in charge of the prosecution proceedings for the investigative agency and the enforcement directorate. A bench of Justices H.L. Dattu, S.A. Bobde and Abhay Manohar Sapre said that since Venugopal knew the members of the bar well, it would not question the correctness or otherwise of his suggestion and nominated Grover to be in-charge of the prosecution proceedings in place of Lalit.
The Wire has learnt that Grover and Venugopal (now attorney-general) met to discuss this issue in the last week, although it is unclear whether it was on the latter’s opinion that the two most recent notifications were issued.
Last week, the Centre for Public Interest Litigation filed a contempt petition in the SC against the appointment of Mehta as special public prosecutor. The petition has alleged that the appointment “wilfully disobeys” specific directions of the Supreme Court in 2014 that appointed Grover as SPP.