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SC breather for Lt Gen Prakash in Sukna scam
R Sedhuraman
Our Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 16
The Supreme Court today stayed till March 29 the Army’s Court of Inquiry (COI) against Lt Gen Avadhesh Prakash (retd) in the Sukna land scam case.

Posting the appeal filed by General Prakash for March 29, a Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan made an oral remark restraining the Army from holding its proceedings till that time.

The apex court decided to hear his petition against the order of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) refusing to quash the COI against him.

While posting the appeal against the AFT order for hearing on March 29, Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan said: “Till such time there shall be no proceedings against him”. Senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi and Jyoti Singh, appearing for the accused, said the trial against their client did not take place in a fair manner. The witnesses were not examined in his presence and even the AFT had described it as a “mockery of natural justice.”

However, the Bench, which included Justices Deepak Verma and BS Chauhan, felt the AFT had given sufficient opportunities to General Prakash to cross-examine the witnesses at a later stage. “All witnesses were recalled for cross-examination. What else do you require?”

Rohtagi said the AFT had found that the statements of 18 witnesses had been recorded by the COI without the presence of General Prakash and when his client appeared before it as the 19th witness, he was named an accused.

Appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Indira Jaisingh told the court that General Prakash could not have been present at the COI proceedings when 18 witnesses were examined because till then he was only a witness, not an accused.

For him, the complexion of COI proceedings changed only after his status too changed from that of a witness to an accused. She said that after he was made an accused, he was provided with the statements of the 18 witnesses and adequate time to prepare his defence and cross-examine them.



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