Govts revokes withdrawal of case against hotelier

New Delhi: As Home Minister P Chidambaram came in the line of opposition fire, the Delhi government today revoked its earlier decision not to press for prosecution of cases against a hotelier said to be a former client of the minister. The decision was taken by Lt Governor Tejinder Khanna today which comes against the backdrop of controversy over the alleged conflict of interest involving Chidambaram in withdrawal of three cases against his client S P Gupta, Chairman, Sunair Hotels Limited, New Delhi.

"Keeping in view this recommendation of the Direrctor of Prosection, the Home Department again submitted the case of the LG with the recommendation that withdrawal of prosection in respect of the above cases may not not be pressed before the competent court and the trial may proceed further on merits. This recommendation has been approved by the LG on 15.12.2011," a Delhi government press release said today. The Director of Prosecution had on detailed examination of the contents of the charge sheets against the hotelier had recommended that there was sufficient evidence on record against the accused and the courts may not not allow withdrawal of prosecution.

The LG had earlier on November 18 approved withdrawal of theses cases on the basis of recommendations by the Screening Committee headed by Principal Secretary (Home). The LG`s decision climaxed a day of drama in Parliament where the BJP and some other opposition parties paralysed business demanding the resignation of Chidambaram. While the Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned till noon in the morning over the issue. The opposition members contended that there was a conflict of interest as Chidambaram had appeared for Gupta in the cases of cheating and forgery in 2003 before the Delhi High Court and 2001 in Company Law Board. The FIRs against Gupta were filed on the complaint by V L S Finance.

The Director of Prosecution, in his recommendation to the Home Department, said "after perusal of the charge sheets of the aforesaid cases, it has been revealed that there is sufficient evidence on record against the accused persons. Keeping in view the evidence on record, there is every likelihood that the concerned court may not not allow the application of the State moved under section 321 of the Cr Procedural Code, which is a pre-requisite condition, for withdrawal from the prosecution of any case."

The Delhi government release said its Home Department had received a representation through the Union Home Ministry in May, 2011 that the dispute between Sunair Hotels Limited and V L S Finance Ltd, who had granted some financial accommodation to them, was essentially of a civil nature and did not not involve any criminal liability.

Meanwhile, the Home Ministry said Chidambaram did not have any role in the withdrawal of the FIRs against Gupta. Union Home Secretary R K Singh claimed that the draft of a letter sent by the Home Ministry to the Delhi government for withdrawal of the FIRs had not been shown to the Home Minister or Home Secretary or the Joint Secretary concerned and it did not reflect the proper deliberations of the Home Ministry. He suggested it could be a fault of drafting.

"The draft was not shown to the Home Minister. The file was not shown to the Home Secretary either. Even the concerned Joint secretary also said he had not seen the draft. The Home Minister had no role in withdrawal of the case," he told reporters here. The three FIRs relate to Gupta allegedly misusing the names of the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and defrauding a firm – VLS Finance-to the tune of several crores of rupees.

The Ministry in a statement had said: "The Home Minister is unable to recall at this distance of time whether he appeared in a case concerning M/s Sunair Hotels Pvt Ltd at any time between 1999 and 2003". The Home Secretary said while going through the file related to the cases against S P Gupta, the Home Minister made it clear that the Ministry of Home Affairs should not give any advice to the Delhi government but only forward the opinion of the Ministry of Law.

"The (Home) Ministry has never said that the case should be withdrawn. The Home Minister categorically wrote on the file that only the advice of the Law Ministry should be forwarded to the GNCTD (Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi) and no advice should be given from the Ministry of Home Affairs. There was no question of conflict of interest," he said. Singh said the file had surely gone to the Home Minister once but he had written in clear terms that the opinion of the Law Ministry should be forwarded and the petition should be forwarded to GNCTD which will take the appropriate action after scrutiny.

"If the letter is not reflecting the true picture, it is the fault of the drafting. I had called for the file yesterday and read it carefully…," he said. The Home Secretary said the issue came up before the Ministry when it received a petition from the Gupta that this was a civil matter being made out to be a criminal matter.