New Delhi: Backed by CBI, its former Chief Ranjit Sinha today alleged in the Supreme Court that a “hidden hand” was a “controlling mind” of lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who has showered against him barrage of charges for purportedly interfering and scuttling the probe into coalgate. His denial and refusal to respond by way of affidavit tothe allegations which Sinha termed as “incredible” and “ghost” came after the agency said that Bhushan, who is appearing for the NGO, Common Cause, was settling personal scores and quietus must be given to the matter which was not only hurting the institution but also demoralising it.
They were responding to the plea by the NGO that in view of the allegations which were substantiated by the surfacing of the entry register at Sinha’s residence showing that he was meeting the high-profile accused in coalgate mulitple times including at midnight warrants probe by Special Investigating Team (SIT) instead of the CBI. Rubbishing the allegations, Sinha’s senior counsel Vikas Singh alleged that the file notings placed by Bhushan to substantiate charges against former Director was in violation of the apex court’s two orders of 2013 and 2014 which had called that no document relating to the matter has to be shared with anyone and as such it was not only the violation of its orders but his action was also in contravention of the Offical Secrets Act.
Taking the line of the CBI, his counsel also said that as the chief of the agency, Sinha never overruled the unanimous stand of his subordinates on the issue of prosecution and there was a need for probe as to how a Mumbai-based newspaper published the contents of the entry register of his residence and came out with a story that it was going to be placed in the apex court by Bhushan, who himself confesses that a whistleblower handed him that late evening before the story came out.
“There is a hidden hand. There is a meeting of mind between Bhushan and someone in the industry or someone else. Someone is controlling his mind,” Singh alleged before a bench comprising Justices M B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and A K Sikri while questioning why Bhushan refused to divulge the identity of the whistle blower even to the apex court which wanted it in the sealed cover”. “How can you take as gospel truth what is in the diary,” he submitted while adding that Bhushan is one person who thinks he is above the law and “not even trusts the judges of the Supreme Court”.
He and CBI’s special counsel Amarender Sharan said Sinha has conceded meeting some of the accused as his job required meeting various people but 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 also agreed to handover to Bhushan the notings filed by the CBI in a sealed cover on the condition that its confidentiality would be maintained. When the bench asked Singh why he has not filed any reply to the application by Bhushan seeking probe by the SIT, he said he has not filed reply as “there is nothing credible from him (Bhushan)”.
“Why should I file reply to something ghost,” he said after which the bench observed that it would proceed on the matter based on his oral submission. The bench will continue with the hearing on March 23 which was started on February 23. The bench had said it would hear the matter in detail and pass any order only after giving a full hearing. 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.
Bhushan claimed the entries in the visitors’ register of the former CBI Director made it clear that he was meeting the high-profile accused and those associated with coal block allocation like Vijay Darda, his son Devendra Darda and former Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahay and said there was a need for court-monitored SIT investigation to ascertain “whether any consideration exchanged hands”.
“If there is so much of evidence on record that this gentleman (Sinha) at so many times had meetings with accused and tried to change the course of probe and manoeuvre the situation for closing cases, then this court has to find out how this gentleman goes on meeting dozens of time and manoeuvres the investigation,” Bhushan had submitted while reading out his note in which he narrated the alleged events emerging from the entry register of Sinha’s residence.
“It has to be investigated what type of negotiations were taking place at the late night meetings which happened for 20-30 times in the absence of the investigating officers. It has to be examined as it is total criminal misconduct and also contempt of this court which is monitoring the investigation,” he had said.
The NGO, in its application, submitted that since the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) of Delhi Police has not registered an FIR on its November 25, 2014 complaint, there was a need for court-monitored probe for alleged abuse of authority by Sinha as the then director of CBI. The former CBI director has denied the NGO’s claim that he along with a few other senior officers of the level of Joint Director, repeatedly overruled the investigating officers (IOs) and forced them not to register FIRs/RCs in cases where PEs had been registered and directed closure of the cases.
Bhushan submitted that the SPP in the coal scam cases, R S Cheema, had disagreed with Sinha’s decisions to file closure reports in several FIRs despite the fact that evidence of criminal culpability had been found against several companies, influential accused and public servants. In the plea for perjury against the NGO and Bhushan, Sinha’s counsel has said, “there is not a single case in which Sinha overruled the unanimous opinion of the officers working under him with regard to recommending closure in which they have recommended conversion to a regular case. Thus, the falsity of the statement made before this Court is evident from this count alone.”