Practically impossible to furnish printed copies of 26,000-page charge sheet to 55 Karuvannur accused: ED

  • ED seeks special court's permission to provide soft copies of the voluminous charge sheet to the accused, instead of printed copies
  • ED says it will need 13 lakh sheets and Rs 12 lakh if the court directs it to service the accused with hard copies of the charge sheet
Enforcement Directorate
Enforcement Directorate logo. Representational image: Onmanorama

Kochi: The Directorate of Enforcement (ED), investigating the Karuvannur bank scam, has approached the special court with a request to allow it to furnish electronic copies of the voluminous charge sheet to the 55 accused and not to insist on printed copies.

"The charge sheet has 26,000 pages and it is practically impossible to furnish 55 hard copies of the document", said M J Santhosh, the special prosecutor of ED, in his petition to the Special Court hearing money laundering cases in Kochi. Judge Shibu Thomas heard the petition on Friday and is likely to pronounce the order on Tuesday, he said.

According to Section 207 in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the accused has the right to access documents the prosecution will rely on during the trial. It says the magistrate shall without delay furnish to the accused, free of cost, a copy of the police report, the FIR, statements of all the witnesses the prosecution proposes to examine, confessions, and other documents attached to the police report.

If the document is voluminous, the accused will only be allowed to inspect it either personally or through a pleader in court.

Santhosh said that Section 207 does not specify that the copy should be printed. "The document is voluminous, but we want the accused to have it as soft copies," he said.

He estimated that the ED would need 13 lakh paper sheets and Rs 12 lakh if the court directed the central agency to serve the accused with hard copies of the document. On November 1, the day on which the charge sheet was filed, ED brought the 26,000-page document to court in six boxes.

Indian courts led by the Chief Justice of India have set the lofty goal of going paperless but are still debating whether the charge sheet can be shared with the accused in soft copies.

The CBI, investigating the Vyapam professional examination scam in Madhya Pradesh, is in the Supreme Court seeking permission to give soft copies of the charge sheet to accused Abhishek Sachan alias Abhishek Singh. The case has been in the apex court since September 2020.

The central agency's request was earlier rejected by a Special Court hearing the Vyapan cases in Jabalpur and the Jabalpur bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in 2019.

The ED in its petition to the Special Court cited actor Dileep's case where the Supreme Court said that the provision of denying documents to the accused on the ground that they are voluminous cannot be invoked if they are 'electronic records'.

Santhosh said the Special Court judge Shibu Thomas was inclined to accept its petition. "The judge was supportive. He said when the courts are going paperless, we should also change and there is no point in resisting technology," the special public prosecutor said, recalling the court's observation.

The judge said if the charge sheet was furnished as soft copies, he could refer to them at home or while travelling. "So I think he will agree to our request," he said.

ED has submitted to the court 55 printed copies of 300-page 'complaint' and 55 soft copies of documents, including statements of accused and witness in pendrive to be given to the accused, Santhosh said.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.