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Ex-Cabinet minister to coal scam accused, CM to 2G ‘beneficiary’: CBI chief’s guests

Logbook entries: Ranjit Sinha says he did not know of existence of registers, alleges ‘mischief from inside’

Written by Ritu Sarin | New Delhi |
Updated: September 4, 2014 11:57:16 am
Some entries in the logbooks are in Hindi, some in illegible scrawl. From registers, no CBI officials appear to have come to meet Sinha. Some entries in the logbooks are in Hindi, some in illegible scrawl. From registers, no CBI officials appear to have come to meet Sinha.

A scrutiny of 310 pages of visitors’ logbooks at the New Delhi residence of CBI director Ranjit Sinha shows that on several days in 2013 and 2014, Sinha met with a number of people named in cases that were being investigated — or which had been investigated — by the agency.

ALSO READ: SC rejects CBI chief Ranjit Sinha’s plea to gag media from reporting on his visitors’ logbook

These meetings, entries in the registers at the gate of Sinha’s 2 Janpath residence show, took place at all times from the early morning to late in the night. The Indian Express has scrutinised logbooks for 15 months from May 2013 to August 2014.

While the Supreme Court has now been informed of the “meetings” with officials of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) — whose officials are under investigation in connection with the 2G spectrum allotment scam — and will hear the matter on Thursday, several other controversial persons appear to have been frequent visitors to the residence of the CBI head.

Among those whose visits have been logged are Congress MP Vijay Darda and his son Devendra Darda, who were named as accused in the CBI’s March 2014 chargesheet in the coal blocks allocation scam.

While Devendra Darda made five visits in the period under scrutiny, the largest number of recorded visits — 71 — were by Mahendra Nahata, the promoter of Himachal Futuristic Communications Ltd (HFCL), who was among the alleged beneficiaries of the 2G scam.

Reached for a comment, Nahata told The Indian Express, “I am a family friend of Mr Sinha’s and have known him for two decades. I have met him a few times as a friend, but I don’t know where this 71 figure is coming from. As a friend, I will continue to meet him.”

Deepak Talwar, a consultant whose name figured in the Niira Radia tapes, visited Sinha’s house on 54 occasions. The CBI had registered a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) against Talwar, but had closed it subsequently.

Meat exporter Moin Qureshi — whose connections with Sinha’s predecessor at the CBI A P Singh created a controversy (reported first by The Indian Express over May and June) — visited Sinha at the Janpath house 70 times in 2013 and 2014, with the last recorded visit coming on August 12. There were days when Qureshi visited Sinha’s residence twice, and ones when he was accompanied by his wife.

Darda, Talwar and Qureshi were not available for a comment.

Several logbook entries read “Qureshiji” and “Nahataji”, suggesting that the policemen at the gate were familiar with these frequent visitors.

Interestingly, among the visitors to what Sinha has described as a busy residential office, were rarely any officials from the CBI itself. And there is no evidence in the logbooks to suggest that the CBI director called his officers to his residence for a conference or meeting.

Instead, the logs show that the former external affairs minister, Salman Khurshid, paid a late-night visit to Sinha in June 2013, and former minister Subodh Kant Sahai visited in February 2014. Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda visited twice, as did former Delhi Police commissioner Neeraj Kumar.

Asked why he had visited Sinha’s residence, Khurshid messaged that he had had “government business”.

There is hardly any doubt that these visitors came to meet the CBI chief himself. Vehicle registration numbers logged at the gate match the names of the individuals or companies owning them — for example Deepak Talwar or Moin Qureshi — and Sinha has not denied that these visitors dropped by. However, he has disputed the frequency of the visits.

Sinha told The Indian Express, “The veracity and authenticity of the registers has to be established and all this is an invasion of my privacy. Yes, people like Deepak Talwar and Devendra Darda did come to my residence, but so what? If people want me to hear their side of the story, should I refuse to meet them?”

Sinha alleged that the persons preparing the logs repeated names and vehicle numbers, and that the visits were not as frequent as they appeared to be.

“Moin Qureshi still comes to my house since he has been very disturbed about the controversy surrounding him and the CBI. Similarly, Deepak Talwar has been coming to discuss some problems he has had with his airport project. But why should these people come every day? For what? This is someone from the inside making mischief,” he said.

What is not clear yet is who precisely in Sinha’s security detail actually maintained the entry log, and how it had made its way to Prashant Bhushan, the petitioner in the 2G case who raised the matter before the apex court.

Constables of the Delhi Police man the gates of the house, and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police — of which Sinha was director-general before becoming CBI chief in December 2012 — secure the perimeter.

“I did not even know that such a register was being maintained,” Sinha said.

The constables maintaining the logs have at places noted, in Hindi, instructions for the entry and exit of visitors given to them by Sinha’s wife. Several entries and vehicle numbers were scrawled illegibly, and there are several vague entries like “1 lady”, “advocateji”, “Qureshi + 2”, and “Guptaji” — all of which may now come under the scrutiny of the apex court.

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