Allow accused to seek discharge before framing of charges: HC



Mumbai: Observing that an accused should be given a chance to seek discharge from a case before charges are framed against him, the Bombay High Court has set aside charges framed against advocate Mandar Goswami in a graft case.

Goswami was arrested by CBI in March last year, when he was a counsel for CBI, along with former MLC Kanhaiyalal Gidwani and his son Kailash, and tax consultant JK Jagiasi for allegedly accepting bribe from the Gidwanis to weaken the charges levelled against them in the Adarsh Society scam.

The lawyer approached the High Court challenging the framing of charges against him by a special CBI court on the ground that he was not given a chance to file discharge application or peruse the charge sheet.

Goswami's advocate Ashok Mundargi argued that the court had framed charges even before the charge sheet could be given to him, thus taking away the liberty of the accused to file an application seeking discharge from the case.

According to Goswami, he was summoned to court on October 25 last year when the special CBI judge informed him that charges were framed against him.

Accepting the petitioner's argument, Justice S C Dharmadhikari recently set aside the charges framed. "I am of the opinion that the lower court ought not to have proceeded hastily in the given facts and circumstances," he had said.

"To my mind, the lower court should have given some time to the petitioner to peruse the charge sheet and to apply for discharge. There was no need to proceed and frame charges straight away when the petitioner was called upon to attend the court," Justice Dharmadhikari had said.

The High Court has directed the accused to file discharge application before the lower court within ten days.

"The lower court shall hear and decide the application within four weeks thereafter and pass appropriate order in accordance with law. If the order on the discharge application is adverse then the court may go on with framing of charges," it said.

According to CBI, the Gidwanis had 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 levelled against them in the Adarsh housing society scam.

Jagiasi, who used to file Goswami's income tax returns, in turn gave Rs 25 lakh to the CBI counsel.

PTI