In a major setback to CBI director Ranjit Sinha, the Supreme Court on Thursday removed him from overseeing the probe into allocation of 2G spectrum, saying allegations against him of protecting some accused seem “prima facie credible”, reports fe Bureau in New Delhi. The senior-most officer after Sinha will take charge of the probe. Sinha’s removal from the probe into the case is significant since it is for the first time the SC has passed such a severe stricture against a serving CBI director and that too in a case that is being monitored by it.
With Sinha set to retire from service on December 2, speculation is rife whether he would step down before that.
Though a bench headed by chief justice HL Dattu directed Sinha’s removal from the case, it refused to pass an elaborate order on the issue saying that it would “tarnish” the “image and reputation” of the premier agency. “Prima facie the allegations made in the application (by NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation) are credible and required to be accepted,” the bench observed.
However, Sinha’s counsel insisted that the allegations levelled against him of scuttling the 2G probe were untrue.
The CBI chief’s role was criticised by the apex court-appointed special public prosecutor Anand Grover and counsel appearing for the CBI, KK Venugopal, also raised questions on Sinha naming a senior IPS officer as “mole” in the team.
The apex court also recalled its earlier order by which it directed the NGO to disclose the name of whistle-blower who had provided documents and visitors diary at Sinha’s residence.
The issue of Sinha’s interference in the 2G case aimed at derailing it surfaced when advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, alleged that the CBI director had written to the then special public prosecutor UU Lalit about reinvestigating the role of a company involved in the scam even when the trial was at an advanced stage. Sinha was rebuked by Lalit on the matter. Later, Bhushan produced in court the visitors’ register at Sinha’s residence which showed that executives from the company alleged to have a role in the 2G scam facing trial had met him several times. In subsequent media interviews, Sinha accepted that he had met the executives from the concerned company at his residence but showed no favour to them in the investigation.
At Sinha’s behest the SC had asked Bhushan to disclose the name of the whistle-blower in a sealed envelope to it. However, Bhushan had declined, stating that in the absence of laws to protect whistle-blowers, such a step would endanger the life of the person. It was this order that the SC recalled on Thursday.