Updated: November 21, 2014 9:26:52 am
Observing that allegations made against him “seemed prima facie credible”, the Supreme Court, in an unprecedented move on Thursday, ordered CBI Director Ranjit Sinha “not to interfere” in the investigation and trial of the 2G spectrum scam cases.
The bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu, Justice M B Lokur and Justice A K Sikri, in a written order, said it was “not giving elaborate reasons” for its decision in order “to protect the faith in the institution and the reputation of the Director of the CBI”.
“We direct CBI Director Ranjit Sinha not to interfere in the 2G spectrum investigation and trial. The next seniormost officers of the investigation team would take over from Sinha and continue proceedings,” the bench said. The directions came hours after the bench ordered some CBI officers out of the court room, saying their presence was not needed and they should stop “acting like the mouthpiece of the Director”.
Taking note of the report filed by Special Public Prosecutor Anand Grover, the court observed that the information furnished by applicant Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) “seemed prima facie credible”. It also recalled its earlier order in which it had directed CPIL to reveal its “whistleblower” and source of information regarding the CBI investigation into the 2G spectrum cases.
The bench remarked that there was an “abundance of papers” which indicated that there was “something wrong”. Later, outside the court room, petitioner Prashant Bhushan called for Sinha’s resignation. “He should resign immediately. The court has asked him to recuse himself from this case after a detailed report from the Special Public Prosecutor severely indicted him and found him guilty of unfairly interfering in the trial in order to help the accused and derail the cases. The government should now suspend him and initiate a disciplinary inquiry against him,” he said.
Earlier in the day, while hearing submissions from Sinha’s advocate Vikas Singh, the court asked the Director to “consider” what could be done on the issue since “if we write down a detailed order, there will be damage to the reputation of this great institution”.
Special Public Prosecutor Anand Grover, appointed by the court to look into the allegations raised by the CPIL, told the bench that Sinha had “attempted to file an affidavit that would derail the entire prosecution in the 2G case”. He said information from the CPIL and the unnamed whistleblower indicated that Sinha met representatives of the accused during the period the investigation was on, and the allegations of interference were from “around the same dates”.
The allegations against Sinha concern attempts to interfere in the investigation and the prosecution of the 2G spectrum scam case against Reliance ADAG, investigation into the Aircel Maxis deal and the Tata Teleservices-Reliance dispute. It is also alleged that Sinha attempted to remove DIG Santosh Rastogi from the investigation team.
According to the report filed by Grover, even though a consolidated affidavit had been prepared by the CBI in the 2G spectrum scam cases against Reliance and the co-accused, Sinha attempted to file a separate affidavit for all cases. In his report, Grover questioned the contents of the affidavit on grounds that it contained “averments contradictory to the stand taken by the prosecution and the statements made by the investigating officer in the 2G case before the trial court”.
During the morning proceedings, the court pulled up CBI Joint Director Ashok Tiwari and some other CBI officers who were present in the court room for “acting like the mouthpiece of the Director”. It asked the officers to leave the court room and “do some work” outside.
The court had earlier been told that CBI officers had asked CBI counsel K K Venugopal not to appear in the case since Sinha’s counsel Vikas Singh “represented the CBI as well as its Director”.
Venugopal also refuted the statement made on Wednesday by Singh regarding the “identity” of a “mole” in the CBI. Singh had claimed that DIG Santosh Rastogi was behind leak of information to the CPIL. On Thursday, Venugopal said the agency did not agree with Singh’s allegation. The court too pulled up Singh for making the statement, and asked him if he would put the allegation in an affidavit.
“How can you say that a CBI officer was giving internal documents to an AAP leader,” asked the court. In his arguments, Singh said that since internal documents and file notings had been leaked, they were accessible “only through an insider”. He then modified his argument and said he only meant to say “it appeared that an insider is giving information to Prashant Bhushan”.
The court said the allegation would amount to tarnishing the reputation of the officer. Bhushan also told the court on affidavit that Rastogi was not the source of information. Taking note of the affidavit, the court said Rastogi stood exonerated. On the CPIL allegation that Sinha tried to delay filing of the chargesheet in the Aircel-Maxis case, Singh said the Director delayed filing the chargesheet only because he was waiting for an opinion by the Attorney General. He also argued that “file notings show that officials of the CBI had said that the evidence in the case was weak, and therefore the Director had decided to wait for the opinion from the office of the AG”.
“What can I do if the AG takes time to give an opinion,” Singh argued, adding that “the chargesheet was filed the day we received legal opinion”.
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