A confidential memo signed by a senior officer of the Cabinet Secretariat, containing "very sensitive materials", has prompted the Supreme Court to give a free hand to the Centre to look into the "serious" allegations against ED's Joint Director Rajeshwar Singh, who is probing the Aircel-Maxis deal case.
A vacation bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Sanjay Kishan Kaul observed that the memo, placed before it by the Centre in a sealed cover on Wednesday, has "given rise to at least a conclusion that the allegations are serious in nature".
"However, it has been averred that very sensitive materials have come into the possession of the Government for which leave was sought to place the same in a sealed cover before this court, which is in the form of a memo dated June 26, 2018 duly signed by the Joint Secretary of Cabinet Secretariat," the bench said in its order which was uploaded on the apex court's website.
"It is averred in the affidavit (by the Centre) that the complaints need further and thorough investigation. There is allegation of amassing wealth by respondent no. 3 (Singh) in the names of relatives. Same is required to be investigated. The averment casts serious cloud over respondent no.3 (Singh)," the bench noted.
The apex court modified its earlier order in which it had said that no action should be initiated against Enforcement Directorate (ED) officer Singh by any other authority.
The Centre, in its affidavit, told the court that certain allegations were made against him on earlier occasions which had resulted in "discreet enquiry", but the matter was later closed.
"Suffice it to say at this stage that we would not like to comment on that material placed before us. On perusal of the same, it has given rise to at least a conclusion that the allegations are serious in nature," the court said in its order.
"We are of the view that faced with the aforesaid material (not really material in the petition), it would be appropriate to direct that the government is free to look into the material found against the third respondent (Singh) and the same can be inquired into by the government despite the interim orders of this court dated May 1, 2014 and November 1, 2017 and to that extent, the interim orders stand modified," it said.
The bench also said that since a charge sheet has already been filed in the Aircel-Maxis case, "it will be the call of the government authorities" as to whether Singh has any further role to play in the matter or in the probe and trial.
"We may note that it is not any body's case that the present incumbent government is seeking to thwart the investigation process and it has been assured on affidavit before us that the government does not intend to protect anyone however high or powerful and will do its utmost to ensure that guilty are brought to justice," it noted.
The apex court also said it was specifically stated that the government would ensure that the Aircel-Maxis case was taken to its logical conclusion as it was committed to conform strictly to the time schedule specified by the court on March 12.
The court had on March 12 set a deadline of six months for the CBI and the ED to complete the investigation into the alleged irregularities in FIPB approval given in the Aircel-Maxis deal case in which former Finance Minister P Chidambaram and his son Karti have been questioned by the probe agencies.
The bench disposed of the petition filed by one Rajneesh Kapur, who was seeking probe against Singh for allegedly amassing assets which are disproportionate to his known source of income by "foul means".
While Singh had also filed a contempt plea alleging that attempts were being made to thwart the investigation in the Aircel-Maxis case, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy had also moved the top court seeking to impead himself as a party in the petition filed by Kapur.
Yesterday, after the top court's order, Swamy had held a press conference and made public the document which he claimed was placed in a sealed cover before the court by the Centre.
He had alleged that there was no basis for the Ministry of Finance to file a 2016 report of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) in the court.
On his part, Singh has also made a scathing attack on the Revenue Secretary asking him if he has developed animosity against him by "siding with scamsters and their affiliates".
In a letter dated June 11, 2018 forwarded to the Revenue Secretary by ED Chief Karnal Singh, Singh has asked a series of uncomfortable questions and suggested that his promotion was being delayed, national security compromised and scores settled because of an "ego trip".