In an interesting turn of events, Hyderabad High Court has held that it was not the correct forum to hear the appeal against conviction of B. Ramalinga Raju and nine others in the Satyam scam and asked them to approach the sessions court, which had earlier refused to entertain the appeals on the grounds of maintainability.
High Court directed its registry to return all the appeals for presentation before the Court of Metropolitan Sessions Judge, Nampally, Hyderabad, which in its opinion alone had jurisdiction to entertain the appeals on all aspects.
On 9 April 2000, Ramalinga Raju and nine others were found guilty by the Special CBI Court – XXI Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate – cum – Special Sessions Court, Hyderabad and were sentenced to an imprisonment of seven years. Ramalinga Raju and his brother Rama Raju were also were also fined up to R5.5 crore each.
B. Ramalinga Raju
On 3 November 2009, Andhra Pradesh Government had issued G.O.Ms.No.110 LAW (LA&J-HOME-COURTS-C), Department, establishing a new Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court at Hyderabad to try the cases relating to scam in M/s. Satyam Computer Services Limited (SCSL). Subsequently on 12 April 2010, G.O.Rt.No.605 LAW (LA&J-HOME-COURTS-C), Department was issued omitting the words “for trial of Satyam Scam Cases” and replacing them with “to try the cases relating to scam in the M/s. Satyam Computer Services Limited (SCSL)”.
The accused faced trial under Sections 120-B, 420 r/w 120-B, 409, 406, 419, 467, 468, 471, 477-A and 201 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Advocate E. Uma Maheswar Rao argued the case of the Rajus.
Judge B.V.L.N. Chakravarthi, who tried the case observed that the case involved “grave offences affecting the reputation of the corporate system of the country as a whole and the economy of the country”. [Live Mint]
In his 971 page long judgment, he observed:
Justice demands that courts should impose punishment fitting to the crime so that the courts reflect public abhorrence of the crime…
After the judgment was pronounced, Live Mint reported:
“We will appeal in next higher court, which is court of sessions,” Rao said. V. Rami Reddy, a lawyer on Raju’s defence team, said the appeal will be filed in a week to 10 days after the team studies the judgement.
Appeal Before Session Court returned on Maintainability issue
Raju and other convicts filed their Appeal Petitions which were listed before the Metropolitan Sessions Court on 15 April for hearing on the issue of maintainability. Appeals were filed under Section 374 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 on the grounds that the conviction was not legally sustainable as the arguments of the defence were not considered. On 15 April, after hearing the parties, judge reserved the order.
On 20 April 2015, the Metropolitan Sessions Court, Hyderabad returned the appeals holding them to be “non-maintainable” observing that it had no jurisdiction over the special court. It directed the appellants / accused to approach the appropriate Court to ventilate their grievance
“In the judgment at para No.63 the Judge was conscious that he was adopting the Sessions procedure and gave opportunity to the Public Prosecutor under Section 234 of Cr.P.C, which is under Chapter – Trial before a Court of Sessions.”
Appeal before the High Court
||Criminal Appeal (SR) No. 14380 of 2015 (alongwith 14186, 14380, 14382, 14386, 14391 & 14466 of
2015 and Criminal Appeal Nos. 393, 406, 407 & 412 of 2015
||B. Ramalinga Raju v. State through CBI SPE, Hyderabad
- B. Nalin Kumar (For Appellants)
- Koka Srinivas Kumar (For Appellants)
- G. Manohar (For Appellants)
- H. Sudhakara Rao (For Appellants)
- P.Kesavara Rao (For CBI)
||“to set aside the judgment and sentence passed by the learned XXI Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate cum Special Sessions Court, Hyderabad in CC.Nos.1,2, & 3 of 2010, dated 09.04.2015 in the interest of justice.”
However before the bunch of appeals could be heard, the Registry of the High Court also took objections with regard to the maintainability of the Appeals. It objected and asked the appellants:
1. Please state how the Criminal Appeal is maintainable against the judgment of the XXI Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Hyderabad.
2. Please state how this Criminal appeal is maintainable in this Hon’ble Court against three C.C.Nos.1, 2 & 3 of 2010 on the file of XXI Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Hyderabad.
The lawyers for the appellants gave their reply:
1. The charges in C.C.Nos.1, 2 & 3 of 2010 are clubbed together and joint trial is conducted and common judgment is passed against which present appeal is filed. As such the present appeal is maintainable. Hence resubmitted.
2. It is submitted that appellant / accused No.3 in the first instance filed Crl.A.Sr.No.3236 of 2015 on the file of Metropolitan Sessions Judge, Hyderabad, against the impugned order. The Hon’ble Metropolitan Sessions Judge by order dated 20.04.2015 held that the trial Court was later re-designated as Special Session Court and hence appeal would not be before Metropolitan Session Judge. Hence the present appeal. Hence resubmitted.
When the matter was listed before Justice T. Sunil Chowdhary, advocates for both the sides requested the Court to decide the jurisdiction issue.
After hearing the counsels for the parties, on 30 April, High Court held that the Sessions Court was wrong in returning the appeals as the Sessions Court itself had the jurisdiction to hear the matter.
Some important observations made by the High Court
Designation of a Court as a Court of Session, cannot be equated with upgradation of the same as a Sessions Court.
…the finding of the learned Metropolitan Sessions Judge that the XXI Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court, Hyderabad is upgraded as Sessions Court is factually incorrect so far as the C.C.Nos.1, 2 and 3 of 2010 are concerned.
If the Special Court conducted the trial under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, no doubt, the appeal lies to this Court and not to the Court of the Metropolitan Sessions Judge. It is not the case of even the prosecution that the appellants / accused have faced trial under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 so as to press into service the provisions of Sections 43 and 44 of the said Act.
When all the three matters were clubbed together and a common judgment was passed, there is no necessity to file separate appeals unlike in civil suits.
High Court finally concluded ordering:
The Registry is directed to return all the appeals and appeal SRs to the appellants or to their respective counsel for presentation before the Court of Metropolitan Sessions Judge, Nampally, Hyderabad, which alone has jurisdiction to entertain the appeals on all aspects.
Image courtesy World Economic Forum from here