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.
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.