Last week, the Supreme Court-appointed Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) in the coal scam cases, senior advocate Rajinder Singh Cheema, challenged the CBI’s line on the ongoing probe related to the allocation of Talabira II coal blocks in Orissa to Hindalco, owned by the Kumar Mangalam Birla group. He said that \there was “prima facie” material against “private parties” and “some government officials” to take cognisance of offences.
Hindalco isn’t the only case where Cheema questioned the agency.
Sources have confirmed to The Indian Express that since he took over as SPP in August, Cheema has written at least six strongly worded letters to CBI director Ranjit Sinha. Most of these pertain to what he calls “sketchy” closure reports filed by the agency in the coal block cases; others urged Sinha to be “more transparent” with the court. After his letters, at least three closure reports have been reviewed. These deal with cases related to JAS Infrastructure and Power Ltd; Hindalco and Navbharat Power Private Ltd.
Cheema is also learnt to have questioned the CBI’s decision to not arraign some persons without offering any cogent reason.
“In his letters, he (Cheema) has pointed to the fact that in many cases the closure reports filed by us are sketchy, only contain a gist of the FIR and end with a laconic conclusion that the allegations have not been substantiated.
He has told the Director that unless and until the entire relevant data is made available to the court, the agency could be faulted for not being transparent. In such an eventuality, the court may delve deep into case diaries and crime files, something that is permissible but is not ordinarily required,” a senior CBI functionary told The Indian Express.
In one such letters, Cheema has highlighted what he calls guidelines the CBI should follow in closure reports: give detailed information about allegation and evidence — oral as well as documentary — which could substantiate the allegation; evidence which renders the case unfit for prosecution; and, lastly, the reason for closure.
Cheema is learnt to have told the CBI chief that in case the court refuses to accept the CBI’s closure report, it would become practically impossible to effectively prosecute the accused in the absence of relevant material.
Incidentally, following the strong stand taken by Cheema in some cases where the probe agency sought closure, the CBI special judge refused to accept the agency’s closure reports.
In one such case — CBI versus Vikash Metal and Power Ltd — special judge Bharat Parashar came down heavily on the CBI. “I am rather constrained to observe that investigation in the present matter has been carried out in a clandestine manner and the final report of the CBI rather appears to be the document purporting to be a plea of defence of the accused persons rather then the report of an investigation agency.”
When asked about Cheema’s letters with the agency, CBI spokesperson Kanchan Prasad said: “This is correspondence between a client and its counsel and so is privileged. Therefore, it won’t be appropriate to comment.”