Open door policy

Powerful suspects visiting its chief’s home touch off more troubling questions about the CBI

By: Express News Service | Published: September 5, 2014 12:31 am

MANY of the influential visitors to CBI Chief Ranjit Sinha’s residence between May 2013 and August 2014, it turns out, were under the scanner of a state agency. According to guest log books, Moin Qureshi, who is being investigated by the income tax department, visited Sinha 70 times. And Mahendra Nahata, a 2G scam suspect, called on him 71 times. Sinha has defended the meetings, though he questions the accuracy of the entries, arguing that he needed to “hear their side of the story”. He has also contended that “this is someone from the inside making mischief”. If it is the CBI chief’s case that he is being illegally surveilled, the allegation must be seriously investigated.

But the core — and troubling — question touched off by the episode remains: Is it appropriate for the chief of India’s premier investigation and prosecution agency to  mingle with powerful suspects? Appearances matter, but this would also raise legitimate suspicions about the fairness and impartiality of the law enforcement process. At stake here is not just the reputation of the officer, but the integrity of the high office.

Revelations about Sinha’s visitors list also come in at a time when the CBI’s reputation has taken a further hit after the recent closure of high-profile corruption cases it opened with much fanfare only months earlier — the agency has filed a closure report in the Hindalco case and the case against former Sebi chairman C.B. Bhave has also, by all accounts, come to nought. In spite of attempts by the Supreme Court to free the “caged parrot”, and firewall the agency from executive interference, especially after it came to light last year that its affidavit in the coal case was vetted by then law minister Ashwani Kumar and PMO officials, the agency is perceived to lack the capacity to expand or protect its own autonomy. It is seen to be all too vulnerable to political pressures.

Sometimes it takes one good leader — like T.N. Seshan at the Election Commission — to recast the image of an institution and to invest it with a credibility and momentum that endures. So far, Sinha has not been the one to do that for the CBI.

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  1. D
    Sep 5, 2014 at 2:05 am
    Ranjit Sinha need to be sacked immediately of impropriety and unprofessional conduct... It's mind boggling that the head of the premier investigative agency of India was hobnobbing with accused parties that his agency was investigating. It's like having head of the police whining and dining with gangsters and crooks ...
    1. Pawan Sharma
      Sep 5, 2014 at 3:05 am
      He has not been able to do that because he has a feet of clay. He has lived a compromised life where he has favored politicians and businessmen to further his own career. He has spent his life worshipping the feet of likes of lalu prasaad. He was not a good candidate for CBI chief. Mere fact that he ws selected is a proof of how compromised the UPA II was.