The Supreme Court Monday agreed to consider ordering an investigation by the CBI into a “diary” that the probe agency had recovered from the offices of the Aditya Birla Group, allegedly containing a list of an estimated 1,000 payments purportedly made to politicians and MPs of several parties by a Birla company trust over a 10-year period.
The bench, led by Justice Madan B Lokur, issued notices to the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate on a plea by the NGO Common Cause, which has demanded a court-monitored inquiry into the diary.
The diary was recovered in October 2013 during raids by the agency at the offices of the group following an FIR alleging corruption in the allotment of the Talabira block to Hindalco. As reported by The Indian Express, the CBI later handed over this diary to the apex court, along with its status report in the coal blocks allocation scam, and had been awaiting further instructions.
The bench also paved the way for the constitution of a special investigation team (SIT) to probe former CBI director Ranjit Sinha over his private meetings with the accused in the coal blocks scam. Entries in Sinha’s visitors’ logbook had disclosed that he held meetings with high-profile accused in the coal blocks allocation case.
The bench sought the consent of former CBI special director M L Sharma to head the SIT and ascertain if Sinha’s conversations adversely affected the probe and the judicial process.
It asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to contact Sharma and seek his nod to head the team. “If he (Sharma) agrees to head the team, you also ask him to suggest the names of four-five officers who could assist him in the investigation and we will then pass appropriate orders,” the bench told Rohatgi while adjourning the matter for Monday.
Earlier, Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for the NGO, had suggested Justice (retd) Santosh Hegde’s name as the head of the SIT. Rohatgi, however, opposed this suggestion and said that the appointment of a retired judge may not be proper. He said officers from the CBI, Enforcement Directorate, Income Tax department, etc should be selected by the bench to be part of the SIT.
Bhushan also opposed the involvement of Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) K V Chowdary into the probe, contending that the CVC’s role was also under scanner over his meetings with Sinha. “We are going to file a fresh petition challenging his appointment,” Bhushan said.
In May, the bench had said it was “completely inappropriate” for Sinha to have met the accused in the case without the presence of investigating officers. “It is necessary to look into the question whether any one or more such meetings have had any impact on the investigations and subsequent chargesheets or closure reports filed by the CBI,” the bench had said, while seeking the CVC’s assistance in devising the modalities of the probe.
Also on Monday, special public prosecutor R S Cheema informed the bench that the CBI is likely to file around 50 cases in the scam, and that one more special court should be set up to try these cases. The bench said this plea would also be taken up on Monday.
Meanwhile, the bench, comprising Justices Kurian Joseph and A K Sikri, also sought replies of the agencies over the need to investigate alleged diversion of coal by ADAG’s Reliance Power for commercial exploitation.
The NGO has alleged the coal block, meant for the company’s Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project, was used for other purposes, and, according to the CAG, this diversion led to a Rs 29,000 crore loss to the state exchequer.