Apex court panel indicts CBI ex-chief in coal scam probe

Apex court panel indicts CBI ex-chief in coal scam probe

Apex court panel indicts CBI ex-chief in coal scam probe

The Supreme Court-appointed panel has indicted former director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, Ranjit Sinha, for prima facie influencing the probe into the coal block allocation scam cases.

But Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi contended before the court that it could not be conclusively held how far Sinha interfered with the investigation.

Citing the report submitted by the panel headed by former CBI special director M L Sharma, Rohatgi submitted before a three-judge bench presided over by Justice M B Lokur that the panel had indicated that prima facie there was an attempt by Sinha to influence the investigation. Sinha, he said, had met some of the accused several times at his residence in the national capital.

Rohatgi was handed over the copy of the interim report which is yet to be made public.

The Sharma panel has concluded that the visitors’ logbook at Sinha’s residence was genuine. “It says the meetings with some of the accused in these cases also took place. The report does make some damning remarks against Ranjit Sinha,” he submitted. He, however, said the genuineness of the entries in the logbook had to be ascertained in the court of law through evidence.

Rohatgi also pointed out that the Sharma panel had expressed its inability to give a final conclusion as it was provided with the records of the registered cases only and not the preliminary enquiries.

The bench, also comprising Justices Kurian Joseph and A K Sikri, asked Rohatgi if the panel should be given access to the preliminary enquiries (PEs) as well, and if the report should be made public. Rohatgi opposed the suggestion, saying the Central Vigilance Commission had already looked into all the cases of closure and in several of them, it ordered registration of cases.

With regard to Sinha’s role in the probe, Rohatgi maintained that there were six layers of decision-making in the CBI and the matter reached the director level when there was contradiction in the stand taken by the officers.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO Common Cause sought an order for registration of a criminal case in the matter. Senior advocate Amarendra Sharan, representing the CBI, and Sinha’s counsel Vikas Singh opposed the plea, pointing out that there was not a single case in which all the officers asked for registration of a case but the former director preferred a closure.

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