SC says can't monitor probe into PNB fraud, to decide maintainability of PILs

The Supreme Court on Monday made it clear that it cannot monitor the ongoing probe into the over Rs 11,000-crore Punjab National Bank fraud case, and said it would first decide whether a PIL seeking a court-monitored SIT probe into the scam was maintainable or not.

The Centre, for its part, sought dismissal of the PIL by submitting that agencies such as the CBI, Enforcement Directorate (ED), Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) and Income Tax (IT) department were conducting the probe independently.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud took into consideration a plea by Attorney General K K Venugopal who said that such pleas were impractical and hence, not manageable by "judicially standards". Moreover, there were laws to deal with such cases.

"We will hear the petition on maintainability first," the bench said when J P Dhanda, counsel for PIL petitioner Vineet Dhanda, sought issuance of notice to the Centre and others.

Dhanda claimed that accused like billionaire jewellers Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi had committed fraud and fled and "the whole country was watching that the government had not done anything" in the past in a similar case relating to Vijay Mallya.

Venugopal said agencies have been carrying out probe "independently" and taking steps like conducting raids and confiscating properties of accused and there was no need for judicial intervention.

The court fixed the PILs, including one by advocate M L Sharma, for consideration on April 23.

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