On November 21, Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud agreed to hear the NagrikApurti Nigam (NAN) scam case in the Supreme Court, after a high-octane exchange last week between the Chhattisgarh Government and the Enforcement Directorate over the case’s listing in front of a fresh Bench.

What is the NAN scam?

  • The NAN is Chhattisgarh’s nodal agency for procuring and distributing food grains under the Public Distribution System (PDS).
  • In 2015, when former Chief Minister and BJP leader Raman Singh was in power, the Opposition alleged that the government was distributing sub-standard quality grains under the PDS and that officials had received kickbacks from rice millers to allow this.
  • The State’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) launched a probe into the matter. While conducting raids at the NAN office, the agency found unaccounted-for cash worth over three crore.
  • It also tested the food samples for their quality, finding many samples of salt and rice unfit for human consumption. It booked 27 persons in the case including two IAS officers, now the main accused, Anil Tuteja and Alok Shukla, (the Chairman and the Managing Director of NAN, respectively) alleging that they had allowed the distribution of sub-standard foodstuffs. The ED also started a money laundering probe into the case.
  • Charges were pressed against the officers in 2018. In December 2018, Bhupesh Bhagel’s Congress government took charge, constituting within days a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the matter again. Notably, Mr. Bhagel’s administration appointed the two accused IAS officers to government posts and in 2020, the Chhattisgarh High Court also granted anticipatory bail to the two officers.

Why did the ED want a transfer?

  • Late last year, the ED moved the Supreme Court seeking a retrial out of Chhattisgarh and a transfer of the case to the CBI.
  • The ED, in its petition, alleged that the judiciary and the current Chhattisgarh government were weakening the investigation and helping the accused in the case and asked the Court to allow proof of the same.
  • The ED alleged that its evidence revealed “the nature of the misuse of power” in Chhattisgarh, saying that evidence was tampered with, witnesses were influenced, and that there could be a “potential conspiracy” involving a “constitutional functionary”.
  • It said that the main accused had close ties with the current Chief Minister Mr. Bhagel, and that the SIT formed by the State government made “at least seven unsuccessful attempts” to stall the previous trial. The Chhattisgarh government has called the ED’s allegations “baseless”.

What was the listing controversy in the Supreme Court?

  • The retired Chief Justice of India U.U. Lalit, along with Justices Ajay Rastogi and S. Ravindra Bhat, were hearing the ED’s plea but dropped the case from the Court roster on October 20, citing paucity of time before the end of his term on November 8.
  • On November 14, the case came up before a new Bench with Justices Shah and Hima Kohli. However, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Chhattisgarh government, objected, saying the convention required the case to be listed before either of the two associate judges on Justice Lalit’s Bench. Justice Chandrachud responded that he could have constituted a Bench of himself and Justices Rastogi and Bhat but that would mean breaking up two separate Benches, presently headed by the two Justices.
  • On Monday, however, Justice Chandrachud agreed to constitute a Bench headed by himself with Justices Rastogi and Bhat.


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