No moral right to remain in office

The Supreme Court’s directive asking CBI Director Ranjit Sinha to recuse himself from the 2G scam investigation is a stinging indictment on the top official’s misuse of office. The apex court conceded as credible the notings in a diary that had recorded, among others, at least 50 meetings between Sinha and the 2G accused – officials of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) – over a period of 15 months.

The meetings at Sinha’s official residence cast doubts on the credibility of the investigation in the 2G scam. That the court thought it fit to ask Sinha to stand aside despite the fact that there are only 12 days left for him to retire is an indication of the seriousness of his misdemeanour. In recent times, it is hard to recollect the court taking such a serious exception to the behaviour of a senior official. 

Some of Sinha’s decisions as CBI chief had already raised eyebrows as in the closure of the coal block allocation case against Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and former coal secretary P C Parakh.  His track record exemplifies those who do not hesitate to disturb the checks and balances at the heart of bureaucracy. The CBI chief was pulled up by the court in 1996 for attempting to dilute the case against former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad in the fodder scam case.

Despite this adverse ruling, Sinha managed to survive and came to head the CBI. On Thursday, Special Public Prosecutor Anand Grover made the stunning revelation that Sinha had attempted to dilute the 2G case and had delayed the filing of the charge sheet in the Aircel-Maxis case involving former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran and other prominent personalities. 

That such an official has managed to remain in the bureaucracy and do well for himself while all the time trying to please the powers-that-be is a sad commentary on the Indian state and its institutions. The fact that the self-correcting mechanisms within the structure of governance did not kick in as they are meant to, is a clear indication that the rot runs deep within the system and it will take a lot more to clean it up, assuming of course, there is the political will to do it. Tall order no doubt, but for a start, Sinha should not remain in office even for a single minute after such an indictment by the top court.

Not that his going will clean anything, but his departure will at least make clear that those who get caught compromising the system do not have the moral authority to continue in office.

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