SC hold Rao guilty of contempt, fined Rs 1 lakh

SC hold Rao guilty of contempt, fined Rs 1 lakh

SC imposes Rs one lakh fine and sentenced him till rising of the court

The Supreme Court on Tuesday held senior IPS officer M Nageswara Rao, then acting director CBI as guilty of contempt of court, rejecting his apology and plea that he did not commit willful disobedience in transferring an officer supervising Muzaffarpur shelter home case.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices L Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna imposed Rs one lakh fine on Rao and sentenced him to remain present till rising of the court.

Along with Rao, then director of the prosecution was imposed with a similar sentence having been found guilty of contempt of court.

Attorney General K K Venugopal urged the court to have "a merciful approach". His blemish less career would be ruined, he said, reiterating Rao's conduct was not willful.

"We don't understand and comprehend as to how when he was aware of orders by this court, could have approved the transfer of A K Sharma from joint director CBI to additional director general CRPF," the bench said.

"If that is not contempt, what else it is," the top court said.

During the hearing, the CJI said he has not invoked contempt of court power in the last 20 years but dignity and majesty of the court has to be maintained.

"To err is human and to forgive is divine," Venugopal said.

The bench said though Rao, now additional CBI director, has rendered his unconditional apology, he has at the time maintained that his disobedience was not willful, making the court to go through the entire records.

In his affidavit, Rao said, "I have not willfully violated the orders of this court as I cannot dream of violating or circumventing order of this court."

Maintaining that he has the highest respect for this court, he contended that the said action was not made with any deliberate or disobedient intent.

Rao has been told by the top court to appear before it on Tuesday after taking a stern view of the orders passed to transfer the officer supervising probe into shelter home case.

On February 4, the top court summoned senior IPS officer Rao for contempt of court after finding that he, as in charge director of the CBI, transferred the officer.

"We are going to take it very seriously. God help you. We are going to initiate contempt proceedings. Never play around with the orders of the court," the CJI had said.

The court had said it had on October 31, 2018, and November 28, 2018, directed that Sharma should not be transferred from the post without its nod.

Rao was appointed as in charge director of CBI after then director Alok Verma and additional director Rakesh Asthana, who openly fought among themselves, were divested of their charge by the government. 

Subsequently, the top court reinstated Verma and quashed the order appointing Rao as in charge director CBI.

However, the high-powered selection panel headed by the Prime Minister again removed Verma and nominated Rao as in charge CBI chief.