Mumbai: Rapping the CBI for arresting its own counsel in a bribery case without an iota of evidence, the Bombay High Court has quashed the FIR lodged against the lawyer for criminal conspiracy and corruption.
On March 6, 2012, the CBI's Anti-Corruption Bureau had arrested Mandar Goswami, when he was the agency's counsel, along with former MLC Kanhaiyalal Gidwani and his son Kailash, for allegedly accepting bribe from the Gidwanis to weaken the charges levelled against them in the Adarsh society scam.
The CBI claimed to have stumbled upon the case with the arrest of tax consultant J K Jagiasi, who had allegedly asked an Air India official, accused in a CBI case, to pay Rs 50 lakh bribe for dilution of charges levelled against him.
The AI official approached the CBI and a trap was laid after which Jagiasi was arrested on February 20, 2012. During interrogation, Jagiasi revealed that he had approached other accused also, including Gidwani.
The CBI in its charge sheet claimed that Jagiasi entered into a criminal conspiracy with Goswami, who represented CBI in several cases, including the Adarsh scam in High Court, for diluting the case.
The Gidwanis had allegedly paid a bribe of Rs 1.25 crore to Jagiasi, who had flaunted his close links with CBI officers, including Goswami, to weaken the charges. Jagiasi in turn allegedly gave Rs 25 lakh to Goswami, the CBI claimed.
Goswami had in 2013 approached the High Court seeking to quash the case lodged against him.
Senior counsel Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for Goswami, argued before the High Court that CBI has no evidence against his client.
"Nowhere in the charge sheet, the CBI has said that my client (Goswami) demanded or accepted money from the Gidwanis or anyone else. Jagiasi randomly dropped names to the Gidwanis and others and demanded bribe. There is no evidence that Goswami had demanded money," he said.
After hearing the arguments and perusing the CBI charge sheet, Justice M L Tahaliyani was also of the opinion that there was no evidence against Goswami.
The court observed that Jagiasi had taken names of several persons, including top CBI officers, probing agency's counsel Ejaz Khan and former Advocate General Darius Khambata.
"Why have you (CBI) picked only Goswami from this lot and launched prosecution against him? Do you (CBI) have any other evidence against him? Was he caught accepting bribe money or is there any evidence that shows he demanded the money?" Justice Tahaliyani queried.
When the agency could not respond to the query, the court quashed the case lodged against Goswami.
"The applicant (Goswami) stands discharged of the offences punishable under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC and sections 7 and 10 of Prevention of Corruption Act," Justice Tahaliyani ordered on March 17.