ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Zero Case

Deadly Implications of the Birla–Sahara Judgment

The manner of dismissal of the interim appeals filed by Common Cause in the Birla–Sahara Papers case triggers a host of questions, legal and political. The presiding of a particular judge is also problematic as it appears to conflict with the code of conduct for judges, more so with the allegations against the Chief Justice of India and another sitting judge of the Supreme Court made by Kalikho Pul, former Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, in his so-called suicide note.

The case that rewrote a 145-year-old core law. The case that launched the first corruption investigation into Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The case that set up new yardsticks for corporate ethics in India. The case that helped clean up the polity. The case of what are known as the Birla–Sahara Papers could have been any of these three. Instead, it became a case of quick burial by more than one branch of the administration, in a manner that most likely needs the legal equivalent of exhumation.

On 11 January 2017, Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy of the Supreme Court dismissed interim appeals seeking investigation into the Birla–Sahara Papers—a set of documents, emails, spreadsheets, diaries, notebooks seized during raids on the Aditya Birla Group and the Sahara Group. The papers suggested that off-the-book payments were made to several senior politicians in India holding public office, including Prime Minister Modi. Justices Mishra and Roy wrote a 23-page order with a terse last sentence: “The applications deserve dismissal and are hereby dismissed” (Common Cause v Union of India 2017). With that, an important case appeared to have hit a wall triggering a host of questions, legal and political.

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