HC directs CBI to supply relevant documents to IRS officer

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has directed CBI to give relevant documents to a senior IRS officer, who is facing trial for allegedly diluting I-T appraisal reports of arms dealer Suresh Nanda's companies, saying the "same would seriously prejudice the rights of the accused".

Justice Ved Prakash Vaish allowed the plea of accused Ashutosh Verma, who came in appeal against the lower court order partly allowing his application seeking supply of copy of police report and other documents to him."In case the prosecution is permitted to withhold what might be vital evidence for an accused to establish his case, the unscrupulous investigating agency would be with utmostease able to keep the court in the dark.

"Since the charges framed by CBI are of criminal nature, the petitioner under such circumstances has the full right to lay down his defences for the purposes of which all necessary disclosures have to be duly made in accordance with the procedures laid down under CrPC," the court said.

Verma, currently out on bail, has also been charged in a money laundering case lodged by Enforcement Directorate (ED). The ED, which has been probing this case since 2012 for alleged money laundering charges, had attached the property in Goa in January.

In 2008, CBI had arrested Verma and Nanda from a hotel in Mumbai in connection with the case in which ED had also lodged a complaint alleging laundering of money. In its charge sheet filed in November 2012, CBI had alleged that Verma abused his official position and "deleted and diluted" the Income Tax appraisal report prepared by him to minimise the tax liabilities of Nanda's companies for obtaining pecuniary advantages.

ED, in its probe under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), had alleged that land situated in Morgim village in Goa's Pernem was purchased by Verma "as benami, for a total consideration amount of Rs 4.40 crore".

ED also alleged that payment for purchase of the land was made in a circuitous manner by various people known to Verma, a 1999-batch officer of the Indian Revenue Service. It had also alleged that the land was being held under a different name in order to shield its original owner Verma. In the plea, Verma had said that the agency has concealed some relevant material from the trial court.

Taking note of the submissions, the court was of the "opinion that Ashutosh Verma cannot be denied an access to the documents in respect of which prayers have been made in the petition merely because CBI does not consider it relevant". The court further said that the accused can ask for the documents which may prevent Verma, the then Deputy Director (Investigation) of Directorate of Income Tax, from properly defending himself.

He is entitled to be provided all the evidence collected during the course of investigation by the probe agency, it said. "Defence has to be build up from day one and not on ad-hoc basis denying the same would seriously prejudice the rights of the accused as enshrined in the Constitution of India," the bench said.

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