Friday, September 5, 2014

Allegations of impropriety against CBI Director Ranjit Sinha; domestic staff of 22

The purported details spilled on Thursday included the number of domestic staff who work for Ranjit Sinha, the embattled director of the CBI.

ET Bureau | 5 Sep, 2014, 06.36AM IST 

NEW DELHI: The head of India's top investigating agency, fighting allegations of impropriety in the Supreme Court, had to put up with the airing of details about his domestic arrangements and was unable to persuade judges to impose a gag order on the media reporting details of entries in his visitors' book. The purported details spilled on Thursday included the number of domestic staff who work for Ranjit Sinha, the embattled director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, which was put at 22.

They include seven cooks, three drivers and one cobbler, according to the affidavit filed by Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) lawyer Prashant Bhushan. This comes as pressure is intensifying on Sinha to recuse himself from the 2G and coal cases after the entry register showed persons linked to the accused visiting his residence, some of them allegedly late at night.

The CBI director later threatened to sue the NGO over the allegations against him. ACBI spokesperson said: "Bhushan's allegations in an affidavit on oath are false and malicious." Sinha told reporters while leaving his office earlier in the day that he would "recuse myself from the coal case if the Supreme Court orders me to". The Supreme Court will resume hearings on the matter on September 9.

The entry register, which runs into hundreds of pages, was maintained by Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel, according to the affidavit. Sinha was ITBP director-general before being appointed CBI chief.

The CBI spokesperson refused to respond to questions on the matter, saying that they should be directed to the ITBP.

The bench comprising HL Dattu, set to become Chief Justice of India later this month, and SA Bobde deferred hearing Sinha's objection to the court taking cognisance of the alleged entry register till September 9, when it will decide whether the CBI director should recuse himself from these cases. The names in the register are said to include various people facing charges themselves or linked to those who have cases.

The bench asked Bhushan to submit copies of the entry register through an affidavit so that the court can deal with the issue. These had been produced in support of the demand that Sinha step aside from the 2G case. On Thursday, another NGO, Common Cause, which has challenged the coal block allocations, filed a fresh plea demanding that Sinha recuse himself from that case as well. This fresh application was also filed through Bhushan.

At the start of the much-awaited hearing on Thursday, there were fireworks in court when Sinha's lawyer Vikas Singh accused the media of infringing on the CBI director's "right to privacy and reputation". Singh incidentally is 2G-case accused Shahid Balwa's counsel as well.

Singh demanded a blanket ban on any publishing of material related to the entry register. "This is a huge invasion of privacy. Somebody's reputation is at stake," the senior advocate said. "He is an important functionary of the government. If he meets a dignitary at home, any dignitary, it will be debated. He met them in a personal capacity, in a confidential manner," he said. Dattu rejected this.

"The press has its freedom." Singh also protested against leaks in the media. "These are a matter of concern," he said. "The court must reject these papers," he said, referring to the entry register copies that were submitted in a sealed cover. "The court (should) also ask the petitioner how they procured the material," Singh said.

The court assured him that it would certainly ask the NGO if the documents were procured in a lawful manner. "You will have a say. The heavens are not going to fall in a day or two," Dattu told Singh, who demanded an urgent hearing to clear the CBI director's name. "Pendency of these proceedings will hurt his reputation," the lawyer said. Dattu rejected his pleas, saying that the bench was monitoring the case.

Common Cause said Sinha should be asked to disengage from the coal case. "There are incontrovertible facts in public domain which lead to the inescapable conclusion that it is necessary to remove Sinha from the case for ensuring fair and impartial investigations," it said. "Before spelling out the new revelations, the petitioners would like to enumerate the instances of undue interference on the part of Sinha already on the record of this court."

One accusation was that he tried to change the CBI status report submitted to the court at the behest of the executive, it said. He was also instrumental in repeatedly over-ruling investigative officers and forcing them to desist from registering first information reports or regular cases in instances where preliminary enquiries had been registered, the application alleged.

He even forced them to file closure reports in cases where FIRs had already been registered, it alleged. "Now a trusted whistle-blower has brought to the petitioner's notice some significant information contained in the entry register of the years 2013 and 2014 maintained at the official residence of the CBI director," it said.

"This record... shows that the CBI director had met at his residence several persons who are the accused in prominent cases like coal blocks allocation scam, 2G scam... without any of the investigation officers being present. Many of the meetings were held late at night."

The application mentions Vijay Darda and his son Devendra Darda who are being investigated over the allocation of coal blocks. It said he also met Subodh Kant Sahay, former Union Minister, whose brother's company was allotted coal blocks and was being investigated by the CBI.

It also sought a special investigative team or SIT to inquire into what it said was the abuse of authority by the CBI director in seeking to scuttle inquires, investigations and prosecutions being carried out by the agency in the coal block and other important cases

No comments:

Post a Comment