In fresh trouble for former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director Ranjit Sinha, the Supreme Court constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe allegations of “abuse of authority” after by him to scuttle investigation in the coal block allocation cases.
A Bench, comprising judges Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and A K Sikri, observed a prima facie case has “definitely” been made out for probe into the abuse of authority by Sinha.
The apex court said the present CBI director would head the SIT. It would look into the report of the apex court-appointed panel headed by M L Sharma, a former special director of the agency that had prima facie indicted Sinha in the matter.
“We have considered the issue whether an outside body of investigators should be appointed as SIT,” the court said in its four-page order. “However, since there has been a change of guard in the CBI, we would continue to repose our faith in the impartiality of the CBI to look into the report prepared by M L Sharma and other relevant documents and conduct an investigation (as an SIT) into the abuse of authority prima facie committed by Ranjit Sinha with a view to scuttle enquiries, investigations and prosecutions being carried out by CBI in coal block allocation cases.”
The order was passed on a petition moved by Common Cause, a public interest organisation, had alleged persons accused in the telecom spectrum scam and coal allocation cases had met Sinha at his residence various times. Later, their cases were dropped or weakened, allegedly at the instance of Sinha.
The visitors’ diary was delivered to Common Cause counsel Prashant Bhushan by an anonymous person in 2015 and it was presented to the court last year.
Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi was given a copy, kept in a sealed cover, for his examination and he had told the court that the report indicated some connection between Sinha and the accused persons.
However, the apex court made it clear that it was not expressing any opinion on the merits of allegations levelled by the petitioner or on the contents of the report prepared by the Sharma panel. “We make it clear that we have not expressed any opinion on the merits of the allegations made by the petitioner or make any comment on the contents of the report prepared by M L Sharma and his team, except to say that a prima facie case has definitely been made out for investigation into the abuse of authority by Ranjit Sinha in terms of the report,” it said.
The apex court said the CBI director may take the assistance of two officers of the agency after duly intimating the court and also take the chief vigilance commissioner into confidence in respect of the investigations. The Bench said the special public prosecutor for coal scam cases, senior advocate R S Cheema, would assist the CBI director and his team on legal issues related to the matter.
“The SIT led by the Director, CBI, may take the assistance of two officers of the CBI nominated by the Director with due intimation to this Court. The Director, CBI, will also take the chief vigilance commissioner into confidence in respect of the investigations. Since the Director, CBI, will undoubtedly require the assistance of somebody well conversant with the law, we request R S Cheema, who is already a special public prosecutor in coal block allocation cases, to assist the Director, CBI, and his team on legal issues.”
The apex court also said the CBI director would indicate on the next date of hearing about the composition of his team and the time required to complete the investigation. “We need hardly emphasise that the matter is of considerable public importance and should be taken up with due earnestness by the Director, CBI,” it said.
While referring to its May 14, 2015, order, the court noted “we had held that it was completely inappropriate for Ranjit Sinha (then Director of the CBI) to have met persons accused in the coal block allocation cases without the investigating officer being present or without the investigating team being present”.