The Supreme Court Friday ordered the Central Vigiliance Commission (CVC) to scrutinise 20 cases where investigating officers found materials to register FIRs in alleged irregularities in coal blocks allocation but senior officers of the CBI sought closure.
The divergent opinion between the investigating officers and the CBI’s headoffice came under the scanner of the court, which directed the CVC to vet all these cases and give suggestions whether the cases were fit to be closed or Regular Cases (RCs) should be filed for further investigation.
A bench led by Justice R M Lodha took a cue from an order in the 2G case wherein the apex court had asked the CBI to give its status reports on investigation to the CVC, which had to first examine the report and then send it to the court with necessary comments. Finding favour with this mechanism, the bench said the Chief Vigilance Commissioner and Senior Vigilance Commissioners should analyse all cases where the investigating officers and the senior officers of the CBI are not on the same page regarding registration of RCs.
These 20 cases, CBI counsel Amarendra Sharan informed the bench, related to Preliminary Enquiries (PEs) wherein the investigating officers recommended filing of RCs on the basis of sufficient prima facie materials but the senior CBI officers thought otherwise.
Sharan also told the court that under the hierarchical structure in the CBI, the investigating officers’ reports on PEs are examined by SP, DIG, Joint Director, Additional Director General and finally the Director.
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The court passed the order after it was informed that the CBI had merely a day ago filed closure reports in two cases although there was difference of opinion among CBI officials. DIG Ravi Kant Sharma, who supervises the coal scam probe along with other two officers of the same rank, said he had preferred filing chargesheets in the two cases but the investigating officers and and the senior officers differed.
“We don’t want to enter into the domain of supervising the investigation since we are only monitoring it. At the same time, we also have to get these divergent opinions examined by an independent body,” said the bench as it eventually decided to rope in CVC.
The court directed the CBI to place the documents of all 20 cases within five days before the CVC, which will furnish its opinion in four weeks.
CBI Director Ranjit Sinha said the court order was not something to worry about. “We have applied our mind to each one of the cases and decided that where there was no criminality established that was a case fit for closure. Cogent reasons have been provided on file and this is a standard practice for us,” he told The Indian Express.
Sinha said difference of opinion was something very common in CBI files and that the agency welcomed CVC scrutiny. “In a majority of these 20 cases, we found there was no malafide on part of the company or government officials but there could have been some error of judgement or systemic lapses,” he said.