Verdict reserved on plea against Bharat Shah acquittalApril 23rd, 2008 - 9:39 pm ICT by admin
New Delhi, April 23 (IANS) The Supreme Court Wednesday reserved its verdict on a Maharashtra government petition challenging Bollywood film producer Bharat Shah’s acquittal from the charge that he ran an extortion racket at the behest fugitive mobsters Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel. The Maharashtra government had moved the apex court against a Bombay High Court ruling that discharged the diamond-merchant-turned-film producer inn the case, discarding the state police evidence in the form of taped telephonic conversations of various accused.
The apex court bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, which also included Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice M.K. Sharma, reserved its verdict after hearing arguments by state government counsel Shekhar Naphade and counsel for Shah, Dushyant Dave, and those of other accused who had been discharged by the high court.
While discarding the evidence adduced through the interception of telephonic talks of Shah and others under certain provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), the high court had also struck down those portion of the law that entitled the state police to intercept telephonic conversations of suspected criminals.
The high court had held that the state government was not empowered to make law on a matter related to communication as the subject matter of communication was part of the Union List.
Only the central government has the power to legislate on subject matters enumerated in the Union List, the high court had ruled.
During the two-day hearing, which began Tuesday, the Maharashtra government’s counsel defended sections 13, 14 and 15 of the MCOCA, which empowered the state police to tap telephones of a person on suspicion of his involvement in organised crimes.
Naphade contended that the provision of tapping the telephone could be provided by the state for maintaining public order, which fell under its jurisdiction and urged the apex court to quash the high court order.
Shah’s counsel, however, supported the high court ruling and said inclusion of such a draconian provision in the law was illegal.
Grilling various defence counsel, the bench asked if a state government would wait for the central government to enact a law to handle a sudden spurt in organized crimes in the state.
The bench asked if handling of various organised crimes like extortion, gun-running, money-laundering, terrorism and insurgency require special laws to curtail them.
“Isn’t a state empowered to enact special laws to curtail special crimes in its territory?” asked the bench.
Shah was convicted by the trial court in October 2003 but was later discharged by the high court. He had served 15 months in jail during his trial.