While setting aside a Delhi HC verdict rejecting former finance minister P Chidambaram’s bail plea, a bench of Justices R Banumathi, AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy objected to the HC judge giving his findings on the merit of the case on the basis of a confidential report filed in a sealed envelope by ED.
It said there was nothing wrong in the HC judge perusing the probe report to satisfy his conscience while deciding on the bail plea but he should have refrained from recording the findings on the merit of the case. “It would be against the concept of fair trial if in every case the prosecution presents documents in a sealed cover and the findings on the same are recorded as if the offence is (sic) committed and the same is treated as having a bearing for denial or grant of bail,” the bench said.
On the basis of ED’s confidential report, HC judge Suresh Kait had, while denying bail to Chidambaram, said “he appeared to be kingpin” in the case. Objecting to the observations, the bench said, “Hence in our opinion, the finding recorded by the learned judge of the high court based on the material in sealed cover is not justified.”
This was the second time that the SC had frowned upon Justice Kait for making observations on the basis of contents of a sealed envelope, apparently containing details of investigation, submitted to him by probe agencies. The judge had passed similar observations while rejecting Chidambaram’s bail plea in the CBI case and the SC had said such practice of recording findings on merit of the case should have been avoided.
The SC’s indulgence of evidence submitted to it in sealed envelopes by agencies is not new. It had entertained “sealed envelopes” in important cases — the Gujarat riots, coalgate and 2G scams which were monitored by it.
However, of late the SC has drawn criticism for what has been referred to as “sealed envelope jurisprudence”. The court said it had “consciously refrained from opening the sealed envelope” filed by CBI while deciding Chidmabaram’s bail plea. But it had to peruse the confidential report in the ED case as the HC had relied on it.