In a setback to former CBI director Ranjit Sinha, the Supreme Court on Monday set up a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the allegations of “abuse of authority” prima facie committed by him to scuttle investigation and enquiries in the coal block allocation cases.
A bench led by justice Madan B Lokur in its short order said a prima facie case has definitely been made out for probe into the abuse of authority by Sinha as per the apex court-appointed panel headed by ML Sharma, a former CBI special director. The Sharma-led panel had prima facie indicted Sinha in the matter.
It said present CBI director Alok Verma would head the SIT and he may take assistance of two officers of the agency after duly intimating the court and also take the chief vigilance commissioner into confidence in respect of the investigations.
The judges also asked senior advocate RS Cheema, the special public prosecutor for coal scam cases, to assist the CBI director and his team on legal issues related to the scam. Ruling out any need for an external SIT, it further said that since there has been a change of guard in the CBI, “we would continue to repose our faith in the impartiality of the CBI to look into the report prepared by M L Sharma and other relevant documents and conduct an investigation into the abuse of authority prima facie committed by Sinha with a view to scuttle enquiries, investigations and prosecutions being carried out by CBI in coal block allocation cases.”
However, the bench in its four-page order clarified that it was not expressing any opinion on the merits of allegations leveled by Common Cause, the petitioner NGO, or on the contents of the report prepared by the Sharma panel.
The apex court also said the CBI Director would indicate on the next date of hearing about the composition of his team and the time required to complete the investigation. “We need hardly emphasise that the matter is of considerable public importance and should be taken up with due earnestness by the Director, CBI,” it said.
Common Cause, an NGO, had accused Sinha of derailing and tampering the investigations in the 2G spectrum and coal scam. Its demand was based on a visitors’ diary maintained at the former CBI chief’s official residence. The entries allegedly show that Sinha met representatives of Reliance Telecom, a company being investigated in the telecom scam, and Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Darda and his son Devendra Darda, who were being investigated in a case of illegal allocation of coal block, Counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, had alleged.