THE SUB-IN­SPEC­TOR WHO BE­CAME AJUDGE

O.P. Saini is a man of few words. Hand­picked to han­dle the 2G trial, the former po­lice­man is not eas­ily swayed.

India Today - - COVER STORY - by Bhavna Vij-aurora

Spe­cial CBI Judge Om Prakash Saini lets his pen do the talk­ing. His 34page judg­ment, deny­ing bail to DMK MP Kan­i­mozhi and seven other ac­cused in the 2G spec­trum case, was scathingly vol­u­ble. Sur­pris­ing, as he doesn’t talk much in court.

Few know that Saini, 57, started his ca­reer as a sub-in­spec­tor ( SI) in Delhi Po­lice. In the 1981 batch of 100-odd SIS, he was the only one who showed keen in­ter­est in law. “All of us are sup­posed to have a work­ing knowl­edge of In­dian Pe­nal Code but Saini was the only one who went in­depth,’’ re­calls a batch­mate. Hail­ing from Haryana, Saini ap­peared for the ju­di­cial mag­is­trate ex­am­i­na­tion af­ter six years in the po­lice. He was the only one se­lected from among those who took the exam with him.

Saini was hand­picked to exclusively han­dle the 2G trial af­ter the Supreme Court bench com­pris­ing Jus­tices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Gan­guly asked the Govern­ment to set up a spe­cial court to deal with the case. The Delhi govern­ment, on March 28, des­ig­nated him to un­der­take the trial of all 2G cases.

Till then, des­ig­nated the CBI judge, Saini had heard cases re­lated to the Com­mon­wealth Games, putting be­hind bars Suresh Kal­madi’s aides Lalit Bhanot, V.K. Verma, K.U.K. Reddy, Praveen Bak­shi and De­orukhar Shekhar. He also de­nied bail to

NALCO chair­man A.K. Sri­vas­tava, ac­cused in a cor­rup­tion case. Saini’s big­gest case be­fore the 2G scam was the Red Fort shootout where he handed the death sen­tence to main ac­cused Mo­ham­mad Arif and gave life im­pris­on­ment to six oth­ers. In the De­cem­ber 22, 2000, in­ci­dent at Red Fort, Arif and his ac­com­plices stormed the mon­u­ment and at­tacked an army camp, killing three jawans.

Saini got the case af­ter the judge (M.S. Sab­har­wal) hear­ing it re­tired in 2002. At least two judges re­fused to take on the case since it was com­pli- cated, with five re­lated cases and 300 wit­nesses, and needed to start afresh. “He heard the case with sin­gle-minded ded­i­ca­tion. He was firm and wouldn’t let the ac­cused get away with bad be­hav­iour. There were in­stances like Arif’s lawyer slap­ping a po­lice­man in the court and play­ing the com­mu­nal card but the judge was un­per­turbed,’’ re­calls now re­tired po­lice­man Suren­dra Sund, the in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer in the case.

The death sen­tence given to Arif by Saini in Oc­to­ber 2005 was up­held by both the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court. Even while hear­ing the 2G case, Saini ap­pears to­tally fo­cused and obliv­i­ous of the high pro­file ac­cused crowd­ing his court­room. “He lis­tens to all the ar­gu­ments very care­fully. He ap­pears sym­pa­thetic when Kan­i­mozhi’s lawyer ar­gues for spe­cial treat­ment. But it’s de­cep­tive,’’ says a lawyer for one of the ac­cused. The tough no-non­sense judge keeps his own coun­sel.

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