New Delhi, Feb 21 - The Centre on February 21 opposed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking probe into the role of PNB's top management in the Rs 11,300 crore scam and extradition of diamond trader Nirav Modi who is alleged to be involved in it.
Opposing the PIL, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal told a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud that FIR had already been filed in the multi-crore Punjab National Bank fraud case and a probe was going on.
As Venugopal rose to oppose the PIL, petitioner lawyer Vineet Dhanda urged the bench to issue notice to the Centre as the "kingpin of the scam Nirav Modi" had run away with the "common man's savings".
The court then witnessed some heated exchanges between Dhanda and the bench after Justice Chandrachud described the PIL as a "publicity oriented litigation."
"It has become a fashion if something appears in the newspaper, the court is moved," Justice Chandrachud said.
"It is a publicity oriented litigation. You have to make averment that the government is not investigating. We must allow the government to investigate. These are the petitions playing to the gallery. Let us not pre-empt the jurisdiction of the government (to investigate a scam)," Justice Chandrachud said.
Taking exception to the observation from the bench, Dhanda said: "The Court is insulting me", and if the PIL was being seen as "something to gain publicity from" then he would withdraw it and let the court take suo motu cognisance of the scam and look into it.
He told the bench that he had been practicing in the top court for the last 16 years and did not need to file PIL for publicity.
Telling the bench that the entire country was watching it, Dhanda said that the scam of such a magnitude has jolted the morale of the customers (account holders) and involves the interest of the country.
"If they (Government) are so efficient, why scams are taking place," Dhanda said, pointing to liquor baron Vijay Mallya leaving the country after making a Rs 9,000 crore hole in the coffers of a consortium of banks.
At this Chief Justice Misra told Dhanda to address the court on law. "We are hearing on law and not on emotions," Misra said pointing out that the Attorney General has opposed it.
Dhanda said: "What he is opposing -- let him state in an affidavit."
At this Justice Chandrachud said: "The way you are pressing your plea, the purpose is to gain publicity."
Justice Khanwilkar asked Dhanda how he was arguing his plea in person. "Did you take the permission of the court for this." To which, Dhanda said that he was to be represented by his father J.P.Dhanda, who had fallen ill.
Telling the petitioner that court would like to hear the matter, Chief Justice Misra directed the next hearing to be held on March 16.