New Delhi: Amid a rise in white collar crimes and corporate frauds such as Satyam and Nagarjuna Finance, the Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan has said that judiciary is fully equipped to tackle such cases.
Dealing with cases of corporate fraud is not complicated, though common man may find them difficult to comprehend, he said, emphasising that “now the courts are also assisted by good legally trained persons. CBI has a good team of prosecutors.”
Brushing aside apprehensions about dealing with crimes that involve complex stock market derivatives and other financial instruments, Balakrishnan said such cases boil down to handling issues concerning financial fraud and record tampering for which judiciary is equipped and can also seek assistance from experts.
“Ultimately (white collar crimes) boil down to the question of fraud... the commission of fraud, tampering with the record and the company projecting report in a different way,” the CJI said on whether the government prosecutors face problems when pitched against best legal brains hired by the corporate.
CBI, the Chief Justice said, “is investigating so many complicated cases... Nowadays, any body can borrow help.”
The CJI’s comments assume importance as they come within weeks of unfolding of the country’s biggest corporate fraud following disclosure by the disgraced founder-chairman of Satyam Computer Services, B Ramalinga Raju, that he had cooked up the books to inflate profits.
Balakrishnan said one of the major problems being faced by the lower courts was the plethora of cases pertaining to bouncing of cheques.
“One major problem is Section 138 (of Negotiable Instruments Act dealing with dishonour of cheques) cases... large number of cases are there, mostly in city” as also other places, he said.
These have created problems of magistracy, he said, adding that “they (lower courts) are all flooded with these cases and I feel unless the regular criminal court is working, it would have serious impact on law and order situation.”
As regards the issue of handling complicated cases, involving stock markets and matters concerning corporate governance, by higher judiciary, Balakrishnan said, “Judiciary handles these things by specialised tribunals for economic matters.”
Even for Sebi matters, he said there are special courts, special judges and a tribunal and also these bodies can take assistance from experts in the field of finance.
On setting up of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), which was proposed by the government in 2002 to deal exclusively with corporate disputes, he said efforts were being made to expedite court cases concerning NCLT.
“We are trying to expedite the matter (concerning setting up of NCLT) and it would be heard by the constitutional bench”, he said.
The government had proposed to set up a National Tax Tribunal (NTT) in 2004 to clear the backlog of tax disputes, but the proposal has not yet made any progress.
The legislation to set up NCLT was challenged by some activists, mainly on the grounds of encroachment of the jurisdiction of high courts and the cases are currently pending before the Supreme Court.
“We have tried to expedite the (NCLT) matter in the court. The matter came before the three-judge bench which said the issue be heard by a constitutional bench,” he added.
However, on the issue of encroachment of high courts’ jurisdiction, Balakrishnan said, “There is one view that tribunalisation is making executives involve in judicial system... many senior executive officers are being appointed in some tribunals... encroaching upon the judiciary.”
The other view, he added, is that “they (executives) are specialists in some department they are working, so these officers can also be members of tribunals.”
Balakrishnan further added that some tribunals are specialised in some areas and these officers have valuable experience, so they could be there.
The Chief Justice also made a case for setting up family courts in all districts of the country to deal with matrimonial, adoption and other related disputes.
The move would free the regular courts to deal with backlog of mounting criminal and civil cases.
People should be coming to the court to seek justice in cases like theft, rape or any criminal offences and “the criminal should be punished within a reasonable time,” he said.