Free Press Journal

SC surprised over CBI dealing with closure reports


Coal Scam

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today expressed surprise over the CBI arriving at a decision to file a closure report in a given case and then going for further probe to examine a particular angle and said this was “a peculiar manner of investigation”. “What is the purpose of further investigation when you are taking a call for filing a closure report. This is a peculiar manner of investigation,” a bench comprising Justices
M B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and A K Sikri observed.

The remark was made during the hearing of the plea in which an NGO has sought probe by Special Investigating Team (SIT) against former CBI Director Ranjit Sinha for allegedly scuttling investigation in a coal block allocation scam case, a charge denied by him. Sinha’s senior counsel Vikas Singh was making the submission that in all cases where decision is arrived at filing a closure report, further investigation was conducted on a particular angle and if any offence is made out at a later stage, the agency files a supplementary chargesheet or a report.

Singh said advocate Prashant Bhushan, who is appearing for NGO Common Cause, in his January 12 note placed before the apex court had alleged that Sinha, as the then CBI Director, had overruled the unanimous view of all other officials favouring filing of chargesheet against influential persons.

He said the Director had also gone with the unanimous view against submission of a closure report till further investigation on a particular angle was completed.

Bhushan said ultimately the closure report was not accepted by the apex court-appointed Special Public Prosecutor and Special CBI Judge, exclusively appointed to deal with coal scam cases, and later chargesheet was filed against private persons and public servant under Prevention of Corruption Act.

Singh referred to the apex court’s May 8, 2013 order which directed maintenance of secrecy of the probe and said FIR under Official Secret Act should be lodged against Bhushan for procuring information on the progress of probe which was not even supposed to be shared with union ministers or even with the trial court.

The counsel for the former CBI chief said Bhushan was refusing to disclose the identity of the whistle-blower who had supplied him information about some of the accused visiting Sinha’s residence, whose names were there in the entry register. “There is no concept of a ghost whistle-blower. He is not agreeing to disclose the identity of the whistle-blower to the Supreme Court judges (hearing the matter),” he submitted.

However, Bhushan cited an apex court judgement to butress his point that he was not obliged to disclose the identity of the whistle-blower. “Everybody knows I am dealing with this case. Some whistle-blower knows about the wrong and brings it to me. He is clearly protected as a whistle-blower,” he submitted and added that Official Secret Act was an archaic 1923 law.

This submission prompted the bench to ask “whether OSA is in the list of obsolete law prepared by the Centre.” The advocates replied that the OSA is out of the list of laws likely to be scrapped. The hearing reamined inconclusive and will resume on April 13.

CBI’s special counsel Amarender Sharan said Sinha in the last hearing had conceded meeting some of the accused as his job required meeting various people. But these meetings were not the way as alleged by Bhushan that he met 80-90 times and several of those meetings were at midnight and there were also entries about meetings when he was out of the country, Sharan said.

Bhushan had said the court could ask the Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) for the coal scam cases to examine relevant documents, as was done in the 2G spectrum scam cases in which Sinha was asked to keep himself away after the SPP in telecom case termed his action as improper.

The apex court during the hearing on January 12 had said “we have to take a call. Either, we have to agree with you (CBI) or with him (NGO’s counsel making allegations).” The bench is also hearing the application filed by Sinha accusing the NGO and its counsel Prashant Bhushan of perjury.