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THE CHHATTISGARH government on Thursday denied the Enforcement Directorate charge that Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel had met a judge of the High Court few days before some of the accused in the Nagrik Apurti Nigam (NAN) scam were granted bail.

Appearing before a Supreme Court bench presided by Chief Justice of India U U Lalit, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal referred to what Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had told the court on the last date of hearing. “A statement was made that somebody had met the Chief Minister. We took instructions. The Chief Minister never met a judge in any pending matter,” Sibal told the bench also comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi and S Ravindra Bhat.

Mehta was quick to counter and told the bench, which was hearing the Enforcement Directorate’s plea to transfer the trial in the case out of the state, “I did not make a statement. I read a WhatsApp chat of Chief Minister’s close officer….”

The exchange happened after the court decided to leave hearing of the matter to the discretion of the next Chief Justice of India who will be taking charge on November 9 after both sides contended that they may not be able to complete their arguments on Thursday and urged the court to post it when the court reopens after Diwali recess.

CJI Lalit, who is retiring on November 8, said it will be difficult to have the same combination of judges then and decided to release the matter from the bench and directed that it to be listed before the appropriate court after taking instructions from the next CJI in the week commencing November 14.

During the hearing of the matter on October 18, Mehta, answering the questions of the bench, had said: “The learned judge met the Chief Minister…two days before the bail. I have nothing more to say. I did not want to say this, but if this cannot shock your lordships’ conscience, nothing can.”

On September 19, the senior law officer, while seeking the court’s permission to place some records before the court in sealed cover, had said, “If this comes out in public domain, it might shake people’s faith in the system because of the individuals involved… A sitting judge of the High Court was in touch with constitutional authorities who were helping the accused…Would your lordships like to make it public?”

The NAN scam concerned large scale corruption by various officers and employees of the State Civil Supplies Corporation.

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